Kolkata: In the twilight of his career, a relaxed Mahendra Singh Dhoni will take fresh guard when he leads his home team Jharkhand against Karnataka in a group D fixture of the Vijay Hazare Trophy at Eden Gardens on Saturday.
Dhoni has relinquished captaincy in all formats whereas in the Indian Premier League Twenty20 he recently faced a shocking ouster from the top-post of Rising Pune Supergiants after Steve Smith was named captain.
Having virtually won all the trophies, Dhoni may not have anything to prove but in his characteristic style he has chosen to lead his home state in the domestic one-dayers and travelled with his teammates in train second class AC, a first for him in 13 years.
For someone who's used to a raucous cheers from packed stands, Dhoni was back at an empty Eden during practice on the match-eve and there was reunion of sorts of two 'friends' as he and Karnataka wicket-keeper Robin Uthappa exchanged a warm affectionate hug.
It was almost 10 years ago they together won inaugural World Twenty20, that started it all for Dhoni to go on to become the most successful Indian skipper.
The duo had a long chat before Dhoni who was all padded up went in full flow at the nets facing pace and spin bowlers.
Dhoni has an exciting bunch of youngsters at his disposal with Saurabh Tiwary, Virat Singh, Ishank Jaggi and Ishan Kishan coming into the team, fresh from winning the Syed Mushtaq Ali Twenty20 title for East Zone.
The opposition camp is equally exciting with Indian top order batsman Manish Pandey leading the side and the skipper has already made plans to target the former Indian captain.
"We all know, how great a batsman MS is... He's been an inspiration to all of us. It will be always nice to get MS out as early as possible," Pandey said.
"If we're able to do that it would be a great thing. It will be a real advantage for us as a team. We do have our plans to deal with MS. It will be all about disciplined bowling and how we conduct ourselves."
Pandey was hit on his left leg at the nets but the batsman shrugged it off saying a minor injury.
"It's a normal ball hit. I had an ice treatment. It should be fine by tomorrow. There's a little swelling but it's not a major injury."
Pandey, who won the IPL with Kolkata Knight Riders in 2014 with a match-winning 94, said it's like a homecoming for him as he's looking forward to rekindle the old magic with another Knight Rider Robin Uthappa.
"Robin and I have had some partnerships before. However cricket remains the same. We have to do well on any ground.
Nothing changes there. We will try to take the advantage of whatever knowledge we have of the ground. It should be a big help.
"Having played for KKR for three seasons, it's like a home-coming for me. The feel of the grass, the dressing room... it's an amazing feel out here. We spent about two and half months here during IPL."
Karnataka have a mix of experience and youth with the likes of senior players in Robin Uthappa, Stuart Binny.
There will be all eyes on IPL auction's two-crore pick K Gowtham, an off spinner and a hard hitting batsman with a T20 strike rate of 166.66 while Mayank Agarwal, who's fresh from two half centuries in Mushtaq Ali, will hope to give them a good start....