How many of you knew about M. S. Dhoni’s passion for Hindi film music and his ability to sing them in a clear, crisp and nuanced manner? Sunil Subramanian, the Indian team administrative manager from August 2017 to September 2019, recalled several nuggets from his tenure during a conversation with Sportstar here on Wednesday.

Sunil travelled back to a memorable night that stretched well into the early hours of the morning. It was December, 2017, and India, reduced to 29 for seven, had been given a hiding by Sri Lanka in the Dharamsala ODI. It was biting cold in those parts then, and the team sat around a bonfire around 8 p.m. to keep themselves warm and lighten the mood.

Sunil remembered, “Gradually, we started to play antakshari of Hindi film songs, where a new song had to be sung from the last letter of the previous song.”

And the antakshari went on and on. And Dhoni, as he does so often on the field of play, assumed centre-stage. Sunil said, “Dhoni’s knowledge of Hindi film music was astonishing. He sang songs from the 60s, 70s, 80s and the 90s. In fact, he even rendered a few numbers from the 50s. Kishore Kumar, Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh, you name it.”

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The former Tamil Nadu and South Zone left-arm spinner added, “His voice was profound and stood out. He sang with passion and heart. Dhoni sang very well.” The antakshari was so engaging, and Dhoni’s singing so engrossing, that it went on till 2 a.m. Mentally, the pain of the defeat had been erased. The Indian team was fresh again, and went on to win the series.

Ravi, the ‘exceptional’ man-manager

And Sunil, during his two-year tenure, recalled many instances when coach Ravi Shastri lifted the morale of the cricketers. “Ravi was ruthless about your performances on the field. Off the field, he understood the temperament of every cricketer and knew how to deal with and what to say to each one of them. His man-management was exceptional.”

Sunil recollected, “India was playing Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2017. Somehow Kuldeep Yadav seemed uncomfortable on the field that day. He appeared to be having the weight of the team on his shoulders, appeared pulled down.”


Sunil Subramanian was India's administrative manager from August, 2017, to September, 2019. - N. SRIDHARAN


He added, “Then Kuldeep came to the dressing room for a rub from Patrick Farhat. Then, Ravi walked to Kuldeep and said, ‘Put your collar up and bowl out there. You are going to win the match for us.’ The words boosted Kuldeep. He went back to the field and achieved a hat-trick.”

Sunil reminisced banters between pacemen Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma that would see them having a go at each other during practice. “But it was all friendly. The bonding between the pacemen was so strong.”

Unique laughter

And Sunil revealed bowling coach B. Arun was given the job of finding nicknames for everyone. He remembered jokes around Hardik Pandya’s “outrageous” dress sense. Sunil also said Rishabh Pant’s laugh should be patented. “It is unique. It is shrill with a tune.”

Those were the days and times that would forever be etched in Sunil’s memory.