Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s batting and leadership is one of the main reasons behind the success of Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League, owner N. Srinivasan suggested while speaking about the franchise’s journey at Sportstar’s first-ever South Sports Conclave.
“It is the strength of personality and the confidence that he exudes. The team feeds off it. The players play 10 per cent more than their best because they are playing for MS Dhoni,” Srinivasan said while talking about one of the IPL and Indian team’s most successful captains.
He went on to narrate the story of how Dhoni became the Indian captain and why and how CSK bought him at the first IPL auction in 2008.
‘Told Dravid he would be dropped’
According to Srinivasan, It all began in 2007 when the Indian team had returned from England after a long tour and Rahul Dravid, the then Indian captain, visited him. “He wanted to resign as the captain. He had come back from England and was not satisfied. I told if you give up the captaincy, they will drop you from the Indian ODI team. What I said happened,” Srinivasan recalled.
“After Dravid resigned, BCCI president Sharad Pawar immediately called up Sachin. Sachin said he will not be the captain. Then who? He looked around the room and pointed at this tall fellow with hair up to his knees – MS Dhoni. The idea was not that he would succeed. Almost facetiously Sachin pointed towards MS Dhoni. The rest is history. He went on and won the World Cup,” Srinivasan added candidly.
‘Other people didn’t know arithmetic’
The 2007 T20 World Cup was followed by the inaugural IPL auctions. Srinivasan had made his mind that he wanted MS Dhoni at any cost. He knew it was not going to be easy as Dhoni had just led India to the maiden T20 World Cup title. But he had a plan and knew that the arithmetic favoured them.
“At the IPL auction, I missed the first two picks. I had asked V.B. Chandrasekhar — former Test cricketer from Tamil Nadu and aggressive opening bat — to hold the baton. At any price, I wanted M.S. Dhoni. The reason I felt very confident was because I felt the other people did not know arithmetic,” Srinivasand said.
He further explained, “They had said that they will give 10% more to the icon player, because they all wanted an icon. Punjab wanted Yuvraj Singh, Delhi wanted Virender Sehwag, Bangalore Rahul Dravid, Mumbai Sachin Tendulkar. They asked me, I said no because my father taught me some arithmetic. I figured out if 1.5 million out of five million went to the icon players, and 10% more to the other player, that is 3.65 million. Then what are you left with to get the rest of the 22 players.”
Srinivasan explained CSK’s bidding war with Mumbai Indians for Dhoni and how CSK were able to outfox MI, again thanks to arithmetic. “Mumbai was bidding up to 1.5 million for Dhoni. Then they realised that they have to give 10% more to the icon player than what they give to the most expensive player. They said that is 3.5 million, everything gone, and they collapsed. And that is how MS Dhoni came to Chennai. It was 100% arithmetic. No other reason why we got him. Their anxiety to get their favourite player was greater than their arithmetic.”
But only getting Dhoni in the auctions was not the endgame for CSK. They needed him to connect with the people of the city and lead the franchise to great heights. And that is where Dhoni and his lifelong love for motorbikes came in handy.
“One of the reasons that he grew on Chennai and Chennai grew on him is because whenever there is a match, you suddenly turn around and you will see Dhoni on a bike next to you. He has travelled the length and breadth of this city on his motorbike, which in its own way endeared him to the people of this city,” Srinivasan said.
‘When I saw Pathan take the ball, I felt we had won’
In his first season as the captain of CSK, Dhoni led the franchise to the final of the tournament and delivered some memorable performances. One of them was against Punjab where he scored 19 runs in the final over against Irfan Pathan in a must win game for his side. “I asked him later, how did you feel? He said when I saw Irfan Pathan take the ball, I felt we had won,” Srinivasan recalled.
However, one of the most unique things about Dhoni is his calmness on and off the field. “I will tell you how he behaves. The match is at 4, he will sleep till 2. Then after having something to eat, he will come down to the team room. Everyone else other than the playing 11 is supposed to leave the room. Then he talks for 1 min, then gets into the car and goes to the stadium. According to him, he will think on the field. It is very difficult. I don’t know if any other cricketer can imitate him and his methodology to prepare for the match,” Srinivasan said.
He further added, “He himself is very cool. He doesn’t like to lose, but he will not show it. He will not show happiness when he wins, or sadness when he loses”.
Talking about Dhoni’s preparation before the start of every IPL, Srinivasan said, “He is very sincere. Before the IPL, he will start losing weight, start training. He will do everything very sincerely and for the franchise.”