The Telegraph
Wednesday , January 30 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Never expected to don India colours’

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, in Chennai, on Tuesday

Chennai: India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, on Tuesday, said he never expected to don the national colours and pointed out that the ‘small-town’ tag has made him a tougher player.

“I never thought I will play for India,” Dhoni said at a panel discussion, here.

To a question about his early years in Ranchi, Dhoni said that while many did not attach much importance to such small towns, they had a fair bit of senior players to look up to along with a decent league cricket.

“Comparatively, Ranchi has (more) senior players. Of course, it’s tough when you come from a small town. But that makes you tougher with the challenges it poses,” he said at the discussion.

Asked how he managed to find time between the game and other engagements, including his endorsement commitments, he said the game was the central part to all the activity.

“It is very easy. You follow cricket. If it is not there, nothing else is there. Shoots (for advertisements) help take off the time from cricket as you roam about freely, interacting with important people,” he said.

Stating that he is not one to hit the gym hard, Dhoni said he relaxes once off the field and eats “whatever he wants”.

‘I don’t compromise on food,” he added.

Opener Virendar Sehwag, one of the panelists along with Anil Kumble and former coach John Wright, recalled his long journey in his early days to practice, adding that Najafgarh, his native place, then used to be known for its gangsters.

Struggling to come back to the one-day team, the world record holder for the fastest ODI double-century stressed on the importance of “switching on and off” during failures and said that he coped by relaxing with family and listening to music.

“My batting is not technically correct, but I am mentally strong,” he added.

On the other hand, Virat Kohli said he still has a lot to achieve and wants to win more matches for India.

He added that pressure and challenges were part of the game. “But I like it rather than not being there at all.”

“I want to be an achiever. There is a lot left to achieve and I hope I win many more games for India,” Kohli said.

“Sometimes I feel a bit under pressure. But all that is part of being there,” he said.

Kohli feels that a quality he wishes to imbibe from his captain is the art of "staying calm" during pressure situations.

"One thing I like about him (Dhoni) is his calmness. I wish I could have some of it. He is someone who doesn't disclose too much, which would let the opposition know about what's going on in his mind. Wish I could get some of it," Kohli said.

Growing up in the era of Sachin Tendulkar, Kohli found it difficult to imagine an Indian team without the senior batsman.

"For 23 years, he has taught us how to perform with so many people expecting you to score a century everyday. It is unbelievable.

“Growing up, I could never imagine a team without Tendulkar. But someday, one needs to take that decision (on retirement)," he said.

In a lighter vein, though, he said that Tendulkar insisted a self-proclaimed 'hip hop' and R&B lover like him had to listen to old English songs.

"He loved a selected few songs. He is a great fan of Kishore Kumar, but he made me listen to old English songs with meaningful melody.

"As far as I am concerned, I am listening to Swedish House Mafia a lot these days apart from popular Punjabi numbers."

Kumble, meanwhile, talked about the importance of both talent and hard work for an aspiring cricketer to make it big at the highest level.