| Stephen Fleming, at a city hotel, on Monday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh |
Calcutta: Former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming, who is coach of the Chennai Super Kings (CSK), spoke to The Telegraph at the ITC Sonar on Monday afternoon.
The following are excerpts
Q You’ve watched Mahendra Singh Dhoni at close quarters for five seasons now. What were your first impressions of him as captain?
A That MS has a relaxed style of captaincy and that his decision-making is very instinctive. He reads the game well and makes the decisions which he feels are right... Most of the times, his decisions are right, for MS has a very good cricket brain. He gives the players confidence, allowing them to explore what they can do. MS backs what they do... Another point I’d like to make is that MS doesn’t get enough credit for being the player he is. He has an amazing ability to win games and, within the team, that gives him opportunities to have an emotional attachment with the players.
How do you look at Dhoni today?
(Grins) With the workload MS has, I’ve seen him get tired... Maybe, there’s a case for splitting the India captaincy, one captain for Test cricket and the other for ODIs and T20 Internationals. MS has to manage his workload and his energy levels. He has one of the most demanding of roles, on the body and on the mind, in world cricket and has to be selective. MS doesn’t have a choice.
Dhoni has himself said that he’ll be taking a call on his future by the end of 2013...
I can understand that. I believe there’s a decent break after this IPL and, so, MS can put his gear away and just chill. He’ll come back recharged for the next season.
What’s special about Dhoni as captain?
The way he takes decisions, the way he deals with people... As a person, MS is unbelievably considerate towards the people around him... Everybody wants a piece of him, but he remains so obliging... That’s his nature as a person, but that gets extended to his cricket.
Some critics feel that Dhoni is a better captain in limited overs cricket, than in Test matches. Do you go along with that?
I don’t watch every single game... Look, I know the recent tour of Australia was tough and tours there can leave you deflated... I also know there was a lot of criticism directed at MS... However, often a captain gets it when there aren’t enough individual performances contributing to a collective effort. A captain can get affected if he can’t see how he’ll be able to get 20 wickets or have a total of 400 on the board. It can get deflating if you can’t see how to have an impact on the game. But, there are times, when a captain can’t do much more... India have been more competitive in the one-dayers and, so, that could be influencing those holding the view you’ve mentioned... For teams to be actually very competitive in all three formats will require something special. Today, teams are a lot more even.
Generally, won’t a good captain be good in all formats?
Not necessarily. The situations vary, the demands are different... In T20, you’re making changes like this (gesticulates with fingers)... One-day cricket is more programmed... Test cricket is mentally demanding, particularly if the team isn’t doing well.
Do Dhoni and you ever talk captaincy?
In dribs and drabs... My captaincy was based on a team always punching above its weight... We talk a lot more about our common goals for CSK.
Where could Dhoni improve as captain?
Despite being so inspirational, I think MS undervalues his communication... He’s very much a ‘follow me and I’ll do it... I don’t want to be overbearing’ kind of a captain... But the players really respond when he talks... You don’t want a situation where MS talks too much, but he needs to value his communication more.
When Dhoni got the India captaincy in all formats, he had quite a few former captains in the dressing room. That he handled them well will remain a highpoint of his captaincy...
(Nods head) Indeed, yes. It’s unbelievable the way he captained the players he’d once looked up to... That’s a big tick in one of the columns... The former captains, on their part, respected him.
Lastly... Dhoni and you have been gelling together. Have the two of you been giving each other space?
Yeah, we do get along well... As cricketers, as friends.