Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s incredible journey from dusty playgrounds in Ranchi to leading the most influential cricket team in the world spans only four years.
The recent twist in the tale is his captaining the Chennai team in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
All other captains, barring Shane Warne, are leading their home teams. Virender Sehwag is from Delhi, Yuvraj Singh from Punjab, Rahul Dravid is a Bangalore boy. But Dhoni is from Jharkhand.
“It’s a different experience,” Dhoni said about captaining Chennai. “The culture is completely different.
“My parents are from Uttarakhand, which is now Uttaranchal. I was born and brought up in Bihar and now it is Jharkhand. I am getting to know people out here better and I am getting used to the hot and humid climate here.”
He added that it is a good opportunity to learn more about the culture of South India.
But in a team which has players from all over the world, the learning experience is unlikely to be limited to only south India.
Dhoni said that while his team has a lot of international players, India itself is so vast that everywhere the culture is different.
“Like (Manpreet) Ghony is from Punjab and there are lot of players from South India. Then of course we have international players from South Africa, New Zealand, Australia etc. It is interesting to know about them and about their cultures.”
Not many cricketers can boast of having led a team, which has the likes of Stephen Fleming, considered by many as one of the best captains in contemporary cricket.
The Chennai IPL team also has Matthew Hayden, Jacob Oram and Muttiah Muralitharan.
“It’s always a pleasure to captain a side that has stars, players with a lot of experience at the international level,” Dhoni said.
“And they give a lot of inputs not only on the field but off the field, when you are going through team meetings, net sessions etc.
“It’s a very interesting format. You get to know the players personally.”
Hayden on Monday had said that Dhoni is a confident leader and has an aura around him. The Chennai captain returned the compliments on Tuesday. He said Hayden was a class player and there was no bitterness between the two following the racial row in Australia recently.
“That time we were on opposite sides and now we are with each other,” Dhoni said.
“The atmosphere is different. The Australians like to play aggressively and that’s what they did. Now, we are concentrating more on the IPL.”
Dhoni also said that he does not fancy himself opening the innings. “I think I am good at the slog overs or the middle overs.”
What about Chennai girls, asked one reporter. Have they been driven crazy by the pin-up boy of Indian sport? “Well,” Dhoni said with a smile. “Nothing like that has happened so far.”