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‘Dhoni doesn’t base himself on false values... doesn’t bullshit’

Sachin & I got along like a house on fire: Horn
Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Calcutta: Mike Horn, a talismanic explorer and in-demand motivator, spoke to The Telegraph before heading to Brazil for sessions with Germany’s World Cup squad.

Horn, who is based in Switzerland, helped India win the 2011 (50-over) World Cup and played a hand in the Kolkata Knight Riders’ regaining of the IPL, last Sunday.

Besides, Horn has worked with South Africa’s cricket and rugby squads. As also the likes of Ernie Els.

Excerpts...

The person that he is...

I’m a simple person who lives his passion, which is the world of exploration... I grew up (in South Africa) in an environment with plenty of competitive sport. I even played cricket at the schools’ level, in Transvaal. I was an opening batsman-cum-’keeper, but not for long, as I wanted to be in a field not bound by time and space... I wanted to move out of my comfort zone, wanted to challenge the limits. I’ve been to the Poles, climbed mountains, swum down the Amazon... Done quite a bit, really.

First involvement with Team India, in February 2010...

(Mental conditioning guru) Paddy Upton and I studied sports psychology together... In 2010, Paddy was with the Indian cricket team, as was Gary Kirsten. Paddy spoke to Gary, got his approval, and then invited me to Calcutta. As it so happened, an India-South Africa Test was on at Eden Gardens... My session with the Mahendra Singh Dhonis went off well and I told Gary that, if needed, I could come back for the 2011 World Cup. I did and had sessions before the tournament began and, again, before the final, against Sri Lanka.

His approach...

There has to be respect for each other. Otherwise, I won’t make any headway at all. I stress on values.

Thoughts shared...

That if a wicket goes down, I don’t lose a wicket or a match, I lose a life. Point being a wicket can’t be lost. That a very high price has to be put on it.

Message to the Dhonis in the hours before the World Cup final...

Gary gave me 20 minutes with the boys... I told them ‘today, you guys can hold a piece of history.... today, you will write a new chapter... it should be about succeeding as No.1... each one of you has been selected for a reason, so write the right chapter, which will make people remember you for long’... I hit on the personal commitment bit. The commitment to India.

Sachin Tendulkar’s response to his sessions...

We got along like a house on fire... A lot of common points emerged when we started discussing the importance of not losing wickets... Sachin used to search for any possible influence which could make him perform better. I didn’t find him the type to say ‘hey, I’ve played for over 20 years and I know it all’... I found him the sort to happily grab anything which could enrich him. I was touched when, after the World Cup final, Sachin said ‘we should thank Mike for his inputs’. He’ll be remembered not just for being a great cricketer, but a great human being as well. He quit at the right time.

Working with Dhoni...

Dhoni’s such a calm and well-thought out person. He doesn’t base himself on false values, but on true values. In sport, you can’t lie to yourself... Dhoni doesn’t bullshit. He gets the point across in his calm manner and that point has value.

Dhoni as captain...

Well, Dhoni takes his own decisions and stands by them. That makes him an amazing captain. Add the fact that he knows the game pretty well and is very talented himself and you have a perfect captain. On the field, he doesn’t put on a show and create chaos — usually, there’s enough chaos already! Dhoni takes the chaos away, absorbs pressure from others... He’s got the clearness of mind, which helped me connect with him straightaway... Dhoni knows what’s good and what’s bad for him. He has different passions, bikes for example... A lot of cricketers build their lives around the game only, they don’t have diverse interests. I doubt if they are as sure of themselves as Dhoni is.

The making of a Roger Federer, Tiger Woods and a Lionel Messi...

It’s not just talent. Sure, each one of them is extremely talented, but they’re great because of the amazing level of consistency. The environment is important... Look at Woods, there was a period when he stopped performing as his environment had changed. When a sportsman triumphs, it’s not only the triumph of his abilities, but a triumph of his preparation.

Mental make-up...

To succeed, it’s important to listen to people, to share ideas and clear doubts. If you’re looking everywhere for solutions, for answers to shortcomings, but you’re not willing to listen, then you have a problem. Having said that, you should listen to things that will help you perform better. There have been instances of players listening to stuff they should not be listening to.

Pressure...

Pressure’s created when people expect more than what you can deliver. So, off-load pressure and be honest. For a mountaineer, something has to drive him to reach the summit and, then, bring him back.

Handling success...

Stay humble... Open up your heart to give. Once you do that, you can receive as well. You can then enrich yourself. Sachin’s a great example.

Finally, if he’s envious...

(Smiles) No, but I do get inspired by the achievements of other people. I don’t idolise, but draw inspiration. If I’m climbing, I won’t keep waiting for the weather to improve. I’ll make my weather. That’s how it should be.