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Cricket enriches your character, says Dhoni

- ‘Being a part of the team more important than being captain’
Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Calcutta: Mahendra Singh Dhoni, on his 33rd birthday, on Monday, relived his journey as the Team India captain in an interview to www.bcci.tv.

The following are excerpts

On his seven-year long journey as the captain of the Indian team

It is difficult to summarise the journey in five minutes, but it surely has been a very eventful one. Once you’re made the captain, you don’t know how long you’re going to remain there and it’s been seven long years for me. From being fortunate to get a very good side as a young captain to now leading this exciting team in transitional phase — it has been a fantastic ride.

I have learnt so many things during this period, not only about cricket, but also about life. Cricket teaches you a lot in life, especially during the difficult times. It enriches your character in terms of how you behave when you’re down and not only try to improve yourself but help your team mates as well.

As the leader you have to protect your team from any negativity that creeps in during the bad times. These have been very educational seven years of my life.

On what he learnt from the leaders under whom he played

The way I play my cricket, my subconscious mind works more than the conscious mind. And for me, it was never about consciously grasping things from the captain but subconsciously taking in certain personality traits or qualities from every individual that was part of the team.

When I started to play for India, I was extremely lucky to have a very good bunch of senior players around me to inculcate things from. What I learnt from them was how to be humble, how to conduct oneself when you’re successful and how to figure your way out of tough times. Captaincy is a very small aspect of my life as a cricketer and their impact on me as a person has been much bigger.

On whether he was surprised when he was named the captain

It did, because I was never really aiming for captaincy. For me, being a part of the team is much more important than being the captain.

On his approach when he became the captain

I took captaincy as a job responsibility. I was given a certain role in the team and whatever I had to do to fulfil that role, I did. If anything, the seniors’ presence made things easy for me initially because you don’t need to tell Sachin (Tendulkar), (Rahul) Dravid, (VVS) Laxman or Dada (Sourav Ganguly) what needs to be done.

It’s the individual characters that shape the character of the team.

On leading a young team at the moment

The best thing about the senior players was that, with their experience, they had a lot of ideas and suggestions to give me. But more importantly, if I didn’t agree with some things they said, I could tell them so.

Right now the situation is very different. Although I am leading a young team, I don’t like to give a plan that the bowler is not comfortable implementing. I might want a bowler to bowl a particular length but it could be difficult for him to bowl that length 80 per cent of the time. So I let the bowlers start off with their own plan and own fields and encourage them to think for themselves.

On if he sees any similarities between him and former Australia captain Ricky Ponting in leading a team in transition

Our culture is very different to theirs and that makes our challenges as captains different as well. I feel being part of Indian cricket or managing cricket in India is not a 100 per cent professional and pragmatic job. We Indians are much more emotional as compared to people from some of the other countries. We run on emotions. There are better ways for me to get the best out of an individual than going up to him and telling him this is what needs to be done in a stern tone.

On which is the more challenging aspect of captaincy — tactical side or man-management

Man management is slightly more difficult because you are dealing with human emotions which are complicated. Most times an individual starts to doubt his talent before the others doubt him. When that happens and you go to talk to that player, you have to wait for the right time and most importantly be very careful in choosing your words.

On dealing with each player individually

It’s important to know your team-mates, not because you want to get the best out of them but because you actually want to know them as human beings. We spend more time with each other than we do with our families.

On leading by instinct

I don’t plan a lot and believe in my gut feeling. But what many people don’t understand is that to have that gut feeling, you have to have experienced that thing before.

For instance, you don’t know anything about bikes. I open one of my bike engines and keep it in front of you and ask you ‘which model does your gut feeling say this engine belongs to’, you will be clueless.

On if it is important to be reactive

When I go on the field I don’t have any fixed notions in my mind. I see how the batsman is batting that day, how the bowler is bowling and what the reasons are behind it. Based on that information I form my plans using my instincts.

On the coach’s role in helping the captain

I don’t think that a captain and a coach have any real influence on each other’s style or thinking. But I do feel that the coach and the captain should always be on the same page.

And by that, I don’t mean there is no difference in opinion — they will have different views on strategies or individual players. But they must sort it out in private, sit and discuss.

On his habit of collecting a stump after a win

That’s my retirement plan. The good thing is that I do collect a lot of stumps, but the bad one is I don’t put a mark as to which match they were from. So, after I retire, I’ll watch the videos of all my matches, look closely at the sponsors’ logos on the stumps and figure out which match a stump belongs to. It will be my post-cricket pass-time!