Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir during the team's practice session ahead of their final match against Chennai Super Kings at MA Chidambaram stadium in Chennai. (HT Photo/Santosh Harhare)
"The captain must know how to deploy whatever skills his players have at their disposal. He must enable them to widen their own range, to have the confidence to experiment. In short, the captain must get the best out of his team by helping them to play together without suppressing flair and uniqueness."
Thus wrote former England skipper Mike Brearley in his timeless book The Art of Captaincy. It sounds simple enough. But, how is it done? What differentiates the good man manager from a poor one?
Captains of the two teams that will fight it out for the IPL V trophy in Chennai on Sunday, Chennai Super Kings' MS Dhoni and Kolkata Knight Riders' Gautam Gambhir, are as different as leaders as they are as individuals.
The only striking similarity between the two is that both can lay claim to bringing home the World Cup. In last year's final, it was Gambhir's 97 that put India in the driver's seat, and Dhoni's unbeaten 91, sealed with a six, that fulfilled a billion dreams.
The differences are more conspicuous. As Gambhir and Dhoni sat next to the IPL trophy at the pre-match press conference, they cut contrasting figures. The perpetually brooding Gambhir was all intensity. Decked in the team's purple-and-gold, an anxious energy was present in his every gesture.
Dhoni was the exact opposite. Just to understand how relaxed he was, one need not even look into his peaceful eyes or see the stillness of his palm, a glance at his feet was enough. Army fatigue boots don't go well with IPL attire, especially not with CSK's trademark all-yellow colours.
Dhoni, of course, could care less. He wore what he was comfortable in. For those eager to step into his boots, here's a little heads-up; he himself doesn't want to put them on unless necessary!
Talking about captaincy, the two had varying takes. A case in point would be how they dealt with two of their key players plagued by poor form.
Yusuf Pathan had been woefully out of touch, getting only 153 runs in 15 matches. Gambhir, however, backed him till he came good.
After Pathan's match-winning 40 against Delhi in the first qualifier, Gambhir said, "People asked me why I was sticking with Yusuf and I always said it was a matter of time, and he has done that. I didn't want to keep chopping and changing. Whoever is there in the dressing room is there because he has my faith, I back him completely."
Dhoni had a similar problem with Murali Vijay, who's been an integral member of the team that has won back-to-back titles. After a poor run in the league phase, Dhoni benched him and issued a warning, albeit with words of encouragement thrown in.
"At the start of the season, he did not do really well and in between we gave him rest for a few games. I told him I won't pick him, but the door is open if he bats like the Murali Vijay we all know. I advised him to go to the nets and express himself. He responded very well."
The result was an innings of 113 in CSK's most important match of the season.
It shows there is room for more than one style of captaincy. However, only one of these styles will be rewarded on Sunday. Which one? Watch this space.