N. Srinivasan knows when he sees a winner. Right from the moment he set his sights on Mahendra Singh Dhoni, he comprehended the value of this explosive cricketer with a calm exterior.
He told Sportstar , “Here was someone who could do so many things. He could destroy attacks. Play out the overs and take the game deep if he wanted to. And he was such a great finisher.”
Srinivasan added, “As a ’keeper he was both safe and brilliant. He ran brilliantly between wickets and his game awareness and the manner he reacted and got his men to rally around him was remarkable.”
So when Srinivasan wanted a captain for Chennai Super Kings, the choice was simple. The franchise went all out for Dhoni, got him and became an immensely popular and super successful franchise.
For Dhoni, Srinivasan is his beloved ‘Sir.’ He has enormous respect for the man and love for Chennai where his legion of fans is countless. Their relationship is symbiotic.
Indeed, they share a bond that is deep, strong and has withstood turbulent times.
“M.S. Dhoni is the greatest cricketer India has produced so far,” said the former ICC and BCCI chief. “As a complete package Dhoni is incredible. He gives you so much as a batsman and ’keeper and then he is a sensational leader of men and an inspirational figure. And he has excelled in all formats and in all conditions.” said Srinivasan.
Srinivasan added, “And he has won for India, the ICC ODI World Cup, the World Twenty20, The Champions Trophy and fetched the country the mace for being the No. 1 Test side in the world. So as an all-round cricketer and a winner, he has no equal in Indian cricket.”
Asked whether he was aware of Dhoni’s sudden decision to retire from international cricket on August 15, Srinivasan replied, “That is between me and him.”
Trekking back to Dhoni’s shock decision to bid adieu as Test captain minutes after the Melbourne Test of 2014, Srinivasan said, “You know he had earlier wanted to retire from Tests and I said ‘no.’ And then he again wanted to retire from Tests soon after the Melbourne game and this time I didn’t stop him,” Srinivasan revealed. “Dhoni said ‘Sir, just give me half an hour so that I can inform my team-mates.’ You see he was just listening to his body, given his workload in Tests.”
Queried about Dhoni’s qualities, Srinivasan said, “He is simple, straight-forward, clear-headed, humble, loyal and someone who can lift the entire team around him.”
Srinivasan, explaining their relationship, said, “It is one of mutual respect. I gave him freedom, did not interfere in what he did. I just don’t have respect, I have a great deal of affection for Dhoni. For someone who has accomplished so much, he is so humble.” Srinivasan observed, “He made his men believe in themselves at all times. He led by personal example. The manner he finished games encompassed his spirit.”
He elaborated. “Do you remember the match in Dharamshala when Dhoni launched a furious onslaught on Irfan Pathan when everything looked lost for CSK? Eventually, he powered his team to a thrilling victory. That’s Dhoni for you.”
Srinivasan said, “It is performances like this that has earned him the respect of his team-mates. Strategically, he is so good and flexible as captain. And he can carry the team with him.
“I have never seen him lose his cool on or off the field. All an erring cricketer might receive is a glare. And his equanimity even during situations of extreme pressure is what makes him a legend.”
Srinivasan said, “It is his calmness of mind that has made him such a great finisher. He has this extraordinary clarity of mind that enables him to take the right decisions, whether batting in tough situations, setting the field, and making match-winning bowling changes when the game is on the edge.
“He is a captain who instills belief in his players, doesn’t dump them after a couple of games. And he has a fantastic eye for talent. He knows exactly what type of players he needs in the side and is clear about the role definition.
“If you ask me, he is the most influential captain and the biggest game changer. And the respect for him in the cricketing world is enormous,” he noted.
Srinivasan expects to see Dhoni lighting up the IPL. “He is still super fit. He will play on and on for CSK. His bond with the club, its fans and Chennai is unshakable.”
Bolstering his point of view, Srinivasan said, “Dhoni is a marauder of attacks, makes runs in crisis situations, can still pull off lightning stumpings and continues to be super quick between wickets. Who can tell, he is 39.”
Srinivasan concluded, “You know, Dhoni is a good man to ride the river with.”
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