Cricket is a game of timing and Dhoni has mastered it. He has taught us what timing is all about: be it about his unorthodox shot-making or his decision-making ability on the field or his retirement. Fantastic!

I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to deal with him at various stages. Be it as a coach (of India A for the tour to Zimbabwe and Kenya in 2004)or through NCA (Patil was National Cricket Academy director from 2009 to 2012) or as a selector (chief selector from 2012 to 2016), we were always connected and I think it helped us in some way, especially during my stint as a selector. I may not have contributed anything to what he has achieved but he will forever remain my darling.

Pathan to M.S. Dhoni, Suresh Raina: Thanks for the memories, boys!  

He has tremendous self-belief. He has his own ideas. Many great cricketers have outstanding ideas but to convert them into reality during a game is the real challenge.

He had that knack. Majority of his decisions on the field in crisis have worked for him and the team, but you have to be bold enough to take that chance.

Most of us tend to leave something to be implemented in the next over but by then things end up getting out of hands. He faced a lot of criticism for it as well but all the coaches, and we as selectors stood by him. He was very cool during the selection meetings and knew exactly what he wanted.

We as selectors gave him a free hand and we had tremendous faith in his decision-making, be it for picking the 15 or 11. We gave him the freedom and we stood by him. That kind of lead the team into a smooth transition phase with some of the greats retiring.

Besides his prowess on the field, I have seen him evolve as a perfect role model. He is the perfect example of how a man should behave on and off the field. The way he conducts himself is tremendous. I wish the younger generation takes a note from it.

I had always maintained he will not let this (retirement) decision to selectors be it Tests, ODIs or Twenty20s and I am glad he has done it in his own unique way.

As told to Amol Karhadkar