By Ashish Nehra

I first noticed Mahendra Singh Dhoni within the early winter of 2004 earlier than we have been to go to Pakistan. It was the Duleep Trophy remaining and I had a stiff again however then skipper Sourav Ganguly instructed me that “Ashu, play the ultimate and inform us how you are feeling.”

It was the match the place I first bowled to MS Dhoni and I do not keep in mind how a lot he scored however after getting performed for India, you might have an concept which participant could make it. What I noticed in that temporary knock made me realise that he can survive in worldwide cricket.

At that point, I used to be persistently hitting 140kph and one in every of his strokes was a mis-hit that went for a six over third man. The sheer energy amazed me. If you ask me about his holding, he actually wasn’t within the league of Syed Kirmani, Nayan Mongia or for that matter even Kiran More again then.

But with time, he received higher and when he ended his profession, he was the keeper with the quickest palms attributable to his sheer cricket smartness. When he arrived in Indian cricket, he wasn’t a fitness center individual however had an extremely sturdy decrease physique as he performed badminton and soccer repeatedly.

What was my first impression when he got here into that Indian dressing room within the 2004-05 season? I might say he got here throughout an introvert and was well mannered to a fault.

Five of us — Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Zak (Zaheer Khan) and myself — had dinner collectively on most days throughout excursions. I do not recall Dhoni ever becoming a member of us. He was at all times reserved.

He would by no means go to any senior cricketer’s room and largely saved to himself. That was 2004-05 however until I final performed in 2017, he remained the identical when it got here to socialising.

Approachable however an introvert, who liked being in his personal room, which was open to all.

Probably the one cricketer, who by no means went to anybody’s room however would welcome juniors in. You may enter Mahi’s room, choose up the telephone, order room service, play video video games, discuss cricket, and in the event you had a problem as regards to cricket, you might inform him.

But sure, no outdoors gossip, no backbiting. He by no means let discussions drift that aspect. That’s why he at all times needed points within the dressing room sorted there solely. Nothing was meant for consumption by the surface world. His largest ability was his extremely sturdy thoughts that made him what he’s at the moment.

If you ask me, I’ve seen Rishabh Pant at Sonnet since he was a 14-year-old chubby child, belief me Pant at 22 has extra pure expertise than what Dhoni had as a 23-year-old in 2004, when he first performed for India. But whether or not Pant could be as strong-willed as Dhoni will let you know if he can replicate that success.

I’ve heard the garbage about Dhoni being incommunicado when not enjoying. He had utmost respect for all senior gamers, gave them their area and I can vouch that he dealt with the transition section fairly properly due to his mind-reading skills. He gave respect and therefore received respect.

It by no means occurred that he did not give a transparent image to a participant about what’s on his thoughts. Why is he higher than the most effective? Because nobody may management feelings higher than Dhoni. What do you suppose, he by no means felt harm, insulted or indignant? But he knew conceal it. It’s his second nature.

He was a great reader of different folks’s thoughts and that is what made him among the finest man-managers the sport has ever seen. He dealt with my comeback and the section between 2009 and 2011 actually. He made me bowl the utmost overs in Powerplays and would use me in three or at occasions 4 spells.

In a match the place you’re defending 325, he would inform “don’t fret in the event you go for 70 runs so long as you get wickets. I’m with you.”

He ensured that selectors in that period did not resort to a variety of chopping and altering. Once you permit the sport, and sit on the selectors’ chair, you have a tendency to search out it simpler to take pleasure in that. He had a crystal clear concept about his go-to bowlers in slog overs, the shaky ones who could possibly be clobbered on the dying.

That’s known as thoughts studying and you’ll’t beat MS Dhoni on that. If he knew {that a} participant had restricted skills, he would use him accordingly with out being pissed off or abusing him and that is management. He knew his bowlers in T20 cricket.

During my final section in worldwide cricket, he would make me bowl three overs in Powerplay and the opposite three could be by three totally different bowlers. Even if I went for 18 within the first two, he would inform me “don’t fret, you bowl the third and if it is a 12 additionally, it is okay if a breakthrough comes alongside.”

Use of optimum sources was his power and making prime worldwide gamers like Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja has been one in every of his largest contributions.

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