‘What’s brilliant about my relationship with Virat is he’s comfortable saying no to my ideas’
In what was his first media interaction — and possibly the last before he hangs up his boots, whenever he does — on the sidelines of a series, Mahendra Singh Dhoni elaborated on various aspects of his captaincy.
What prompted you to step down?
I am somebody who believes that in our set-up, split captaincy doesn’t really work. With the Indian team, one player leading the players in all the formats is something that is very crucial. Now that I can’t be the Test captain, I don’t think my views should change. Virat took over the Test captaincy and I wanted him to have some time over there and get into the full captaincy role. You know, limited-overs format is not a big challenge. That’s why I finally decided to move on and give Virat the full captaincy.
How difficult will it be to get captaincy out of your system?
I think the wicket-keeper is always a vice-captain of the side, whether he is announced vice-captain or not. Field setting is usually given to the vice-captain or the wicket-keeper.
In this scenario, I will have to keep a close eye on what the skipper really wants, his preferential field positions. I will be there to give as many suggestions as possible to Virat as and when required. The field positioning is something I have to keep a close eye on. I can’t just say ‘you go left, you go right’. I will have to consult him and tell him, because if it is strategically positioned in a particular place I can become a bit of a problem if I start moving around, but it’s not something that’s a big trouble to cope with.
Can you talk about your bond with Virat?
We have been very close, right from the start. You know, in Indian cricket, when cricketers get five games, and if they are out of the side, they’re always worried about the two games they didn’t get. Virat was somebody who always wanted to improve in whatever chances he got. He wanted to do well in those games. And that is the reason why he is so successful right now…
What’s brilliant is if I go up with 100 ideas to him, he is comfortable saying no to all of them because that’s his responsibility — to pick and choose what he’s really convinced about. I think that kind of relationship is very important because I shouldn’t feel ‘okay, if I am saying something, that should happen’ and he shouldn’t feel as if whatever is coming from my side has to be implemented.
Did you feel the burden of leadership was holding you back as a batsman?
The team is more important that the individual. I could’ve got maybe a few more runs than I have right now, but it is about winning. Cricket, I always felt, was more of a mental game. At times I found individuals can be very rigid. When you’re supposed to shift your batting slot, at times it is very difficult to adjust to that new mindset or change the game to the way it needs to be played. I thought I was somebody who could do that and I was willing to do that for the team. It is the same as of now, if I am supposed to bat at 4, 5, 6, 7 whatever the demand is for the team’s betterment, I am ready to bat there.
What aspects of captaincy gave you fulfilment?
The main job of the captain is to make sure that whatever is the potential of the player, he is performing to a 100 per cent. If you can achieve something between 90 to 110 per cent, you know you’ve done really well. You can’t really get 150 per cent performance from a player who is 80 per cent. That’s where you have to be very practical, very honest. You should know ways as to how to handle each and every individual.
There are different ways to handle everyone — for some it is a kind word, for some it is a harsh word. For some it may be just an expression with your eyes.
You have to figure out what really works the best, at times it maybe the false confidence you give the guy because that is what is really needed at that point. You have to be clever enough to evaluate what is needed.