'MSD knew each player’s good and bad points'

Joginder Sharma, who bowled the famous last over against Pakistan in the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in 2007, reminisces about M.S. Dhoni — the player and leader.

Moment of glory... the Indians celebrate after winning the World T20 in 2007.   -  Getty Images

My career was built by MSD. What a player. What a captain.

I have known him from close and yet I could never read him fully. He was a packet of surprises. He was a player’s captain, a bowler’s best friend and a batsman’s best guide. What more would one want, especially if you are a newcomer from a small town wanting to make a place in international cricket. It did not matter to MSD where you came from. Each member was important. I relished that privilege when I played under him.

I remember my first meeting with MSD. It was at Gurgaon in a Ranji Trophy match (December 2002). It was a dream debut year for me. I was confident with my seam and swing bowling. MSD was opening for Bihar and got a flawless 85. I could have got anyone out anytime but this man played me as I if was just another ordinary bowler.

As a captain he was a master. He precisely knew each player’s good and bad points. He could read the situation brilliantly and, believe me, create the role to be played by each individual. Many players learnt to carve their individual role in the team through MSD.

I had played many matches with MSD. I had bowled last overs in some tournaments in Bihar when I played under him. Once I bowled with five runs to defend. I guess I won his confidence that day.

That World T20 final against Pakistan is well known. I bowled the last over and we made history. I had bowled the last over in the previous match against Australia. But this one was different.

Stick to the plan

Pakistan needed a mere 13 against 22 for Australia. We were under pressure. But not MSD. He just told me, “You have six deliveries to make history. Bowl what you have in mind, what we had planned, yorkers outside off-stump. Just stick to the plan. Don’t worry, if we lose, it is my responsibility.” His words changed my approach, gave me confidence, and we made history!

MSD has done his job of giving Indian cricket the right direction. He has also done his job of instilling the desired faith in Virat Kohli. You can see the difference in Virat, who has grown from watching MSD from close. Their respect is mutual and huge. It makes an impact in the dressing room and this is the area where MSD has always scored.

As a captain, MSD encouraged individuals to make decisions since he knew his players inside out. He would assign them specific roles and silently enjoy their success. He would absorb your pressure and if you struggled he would absorb that struggle too. He commanded the faith of every player and did not show disrespect to anyone.

Freedom to express

I did not see him dominate the team meetings just because he was the captain. Individuals had the freedom of expression. He welcomed criticism. There was a rare show of displeasure, during the IPL in South Africa, when he said he was not happy with our intensity when fielding. This after we had won the match. And this with a sense of feeling for the players. He was not at all curt. “Fielding mein intensity nahi thi,” was all he said.

MSD was a leader who valued every individual in the team on the same scale. He has taken the right decision because he wants to serve the team in his best capacity. That’s the MSD I have known from the time I first bowled to him in 2002.

(as told to Vijay Lokapally)