MS Dhoni's first coach opens up on his instinctive captaincy and grounded personality
When he was given the captaincy, plenty of eyebrows were raised about MS Dhoni’s ability to handle the rigors accompanying the top job. However, in his inimitable manner, the wicket-keeper batsman has grown in stature with his instinctive leadership playing a major role in helping India lift all three ICC tournaments as well the coveted Test mace during the late 2000s and early 2010s.
According to the Ranchi-born cricketer’s first coach, the secret behind his unique captaincy methods has stemmed from a grounded personality as well a patient outlook towards almost every situation. Keshav Ranjan Banerjee, who took a young and eager Dhoni under his wings, took a trip down memory lane while attempting to shed light on the 35-year old’s formative years.
During an interview with Wisden India, Banerjee revealed, “He’s (Dhoni’s) the kind of a man who’ll answer any question you ask. Suppose you counter or keep asking the same thing again and again, he will still answer without getting angry. Very little does he talk with people, he doesn’t know. He talks a lot with friends because he’s more comfortable with them than with any coach. I don’t find any difference in him.”
“In the beginning, he was like that and even now he is. I have seen him struggling from owning a single bat. How he managed that, I know. I guess that’s why he’s very grounded. This character is the same character I saw in Class 6, 7. Even with his father and mother, he speaks very little and to the point. That’s out of respect. The family culture is like that.”
Dhoni gave an early glimpse into his unconventional style of captaincy during his maiden international assignment. During the 2007 World T20 in South Africa, the newly appointed skipper led an inexperienced team all the way to the title with the final against Pakistan standing as a testament to his distinctive way of thinking. Defending only 13 runs from the last over, he decided to give the ball to medium pacer Joginder Sharma though Harbhajan Singh’s quota of overs was not done yet.
Eventually, Joginder dismissed the well-set Misbah-ul-Haq, to eke out a five-run victory and the resultant World T20 title. Dhoni’s coach admitted that the propensity to surprise the opposition by making decisions based on his gut-feeling was directly related to his off-field nature.
Banerjee felt, “He has always taken surprising decisions and most times they click. There are no scientific reasons behind it. In the first T20 World Cup in 2007, he gave Joginder Sharma the last over. It’s a crucial decision. If they had lost, they would have brought him down. He became captain of the school in Class 11 and even there he was like that. He always went with gut feeling.”
He added, “Also, nowadays, people get into affairs with girls and do drugs. In his case, he had no affairs with any girls in school. He always concentrated on games and spoke very less. That probably helped him look at things from a different perspective.”