Ever since he took over the captaincy Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been in the centre of the media's glare. He looks down at you from more advertising hoardings than any other cricketer and in commercial breaks during play sometimes features in more than one advert. But one thing that he has shied away from, largely, is talking about his own captaincy.
Who better to discuss Dhoni's approach as a leader than the man chiefly responsible for singing him up at a record $ 1.5 million with the Chennai team? Former India cricketer and national selector VB Chandrasekhar is called so many names—CEO, general manager, coach, director of cricket operations - that even he isn't too clear what his designation is. What he is not in two minds about, though, is the manner in which his captain has led.
“A lot of people have said that Dhoni is not expressive and not willing to express his emotions on the field. I have heard these things and I see other captains being more animated on the field, some are downright vociferous,” says Chandrasekhar. “Dhoni looks unflustered and carries himself very well. A lot of people are sitting in judgment of what kind of leader he is.”
But not a lot of people have had the opportunity to watch Dhoni from as close quarters as Chandrasekhar has over the last 35-40 days, and his insight is revealing. "Whatever you discuss with Dhoni it's always short and simple. He makes his point of view clear and when you make a point he thinks about it and if he's convinced he'll incorporate it," explains Chandrasekhar. "He's the kind of man who takes a decision, gives it time, takes responsibility for it and then gives everything in order to make it work.” “From what I hear from other accomplished players, they felt that when the going was tough in the middle, when tension was in the air, because Dhoni was cool it helped the bowlers and fielders perform to potential," said Chandrasekhar. At the same time, there were areas in which Dhoni could improve. "There is also another side to it and this comes when you're in a situation where you need to pump up some youngsters—the captain has to do it. Dhoni has the self confidence, belief and ability to go out there and change the course of a game himself. Maybe another aspect will be to get other guys to go out there and perform like he can."
Chandrasekhar talks of a match against Delhi where there was some discussion about what to do if they won the toss. Dhoni had made his mind up, and when an alternative was put to him he decided there was no need for last-minute confusion and stuck to his guns. “There's a strength in having that clarity of thought and being decisive," said Chandrasekhar. “It doesn’t look like an attribute that has been cultivated over time."
So far it's worked for Chennai. All they want is two more good days out in the field. Dhoni's had some bad luck with tosses, but when this was put to him, all he said was, “I'll win the important ones.”