Chennai Super Kings captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said that they would barely have team meetings and before the Indian Premier League final last month, their meeting lasted five seconds.
“You address the team only when there is a need," he said. “Before the final, (coach Stephen) Fleming just said ‘go get it boys’. We didn’t have too many meetings. We have played each other so much that it is no rocket science. You don’t need a meeting just to tick a box."
Speaking on stage at the Star Re-imagine awards in Mumbai on Monday evening, Dhoni said his biggest learning as captain was that “there is nothing like common sense" because in a team, different people have varying levels of understanding and sometimes the obvious needs to be said. “The biggest problem is when a player asks a captain why he is not playing but does not want an honest answer," he added.
He took the example of CSK teammate, 23-year-old Monu (Kumar) Singh, who did not get a game in the league. “After 2 weeks of IPL, I asked Monu, what have you learnt? He says kucho nahin seekhe (I learnt nothing). Then you need to change your approach (towards the player)."
Chennai Super Kings won their third IPL title in its 11th season, coming back into the league after a gap of two years due to suspension. The team, with an average players age of over 30, was initially doubted for its capability of doing well in what is considered a young man’s version of the game. But all the senior pros—including Dhoni, Shane Watson, Suresh Raina, Dwayne Bravo, Ambati Rayudu, among others—performed consistently to take the team through.
“I don’t look too far ahead. I live in the present with an eye on the future," said Dhoni who quit Test cricket in the middle of a series in Australia in December 2014. “This is the only season we qualified early and comfortably. If you qualify then you are in the top two, which gives you a second chance and the prize money is high this year. I never had any thoughts that we may not qualify."
He said unlike popular perception, the CSK team did not have a big celebration after their title win. He went to Chennai the following morning for a dinner with the CSK management, flew to Delhi and then Ranchi. “I was missing my parents, dogs and my bikes," he added.
The usually reticent wicketkeeper explained why in the team photos taken during the trophy presentation, he stood hidden with the support staff.
“Team sport is unfair because a captain receives the trophy, so already there’s overexposure (for the captain). You don’t have to be there. Maybe if you don’t hold it (the trophy) for too long you may want more," Dhoni said, grinning.
He took a friendly dig at Monu Singh, who was prominently in front of his teammates in the pictures. “Monu only wanted a blue tick on his Instagram account," Dhoni joked.
The 36-year-old, who aims to play the World Cup in England next year, batted up the order this year for CSK, scoring 455 runs with an average of 75.83 and a strike rate of over 150. He said the strategy was about how many overs he could face rather than which position he batted at.
Considered one of the fittest players in the Indian team, Dhoni said that after he quit playing Tests, he started to focus more on fitness. This included changing his food habits from butter chicken, milk shakes and naan to grills and kababs. This year, he started going to the gym more often but once the IPL started, he got into rowing. “I will hit gym hard between series. But 80% of where you want to be is food, 20% is fitness."
The CSK captain was the second most successful wicketkeeper in this IPL, behind Dinesh Karthik, with 14 dismissals from 16 matches.
Dhoni, who will soon head to England for a one-day international and T20 international series, said he was not a great believer in statistics. The batsman who is just 33 runs short of 10,000 in ODIs said, “In my 11th standard, my teacher said that with statistics you can prove anything."