Not the one to succumb to pressure

Personally I feel it (my wicketkeeping) has improved from last year. It is a process and, like batting or bowling, takes time to evolve. - M.S. DHONI-PHOTO: BHAGYA PRAKSAH Personally I feel it (my wicketkeeping) has improved from last year. It is a process and, like batting or bowling, takes time to evolve. - M.S. DHONI

M. S. Dhoni likes to keep his cricket simple. "The ball is there to be hit. Sometimes you have to play a delivery on its merit and sometimes think of innovating. I like to innovate because it throws new challenges to the bowlers," says the wicketkeeper-batsman in a chat with Vijay Lokapally.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni has emerged as the style icon without intending to. His flowing mane, his adventurous batting and an infectious smile combine to make him an irresistible figure. And when he batters the bowlers, he sends his fans into raptures, even if the connoisseurs of the game might wince at his unorthodox style of batting.

"He is exciting, different from the run of the mill Indian talent. His most impressive aspect is the freedom and the air that he carries to the middle. It is very refreshing. He is a physically strong man and that should stand him in good stead. What will be tough for him is to cope with off-the-field pressures. If he can handle his success the next two years, I can see him enjoying a long career. My first advice to him would be to never ignore wicketkeeping. He reminds me of Kapil Dev when he arrived on the scene," observed Ravi Shastri, who also tasted success at a very young age.

Dhoni's love for fast bikes and fast cars is no secret. He yearns to own a fast bike of every make. His humility and down-to-earth attitude are not put-on. He is a simple young man untouched by the trappings of fame or mass adulation that most men have succumbed to.

The marauding wicketkeeper-batsman lends a new dimension to the Indian team. His undefeated 183 against Sri Lanka in Jaipur last year was a proof of his destructive abilities. The highest score by a wicketkeeper in one-day cricket is also the joint second highest individual score by an Indian in limited-overs cricket. But the 25-year-old dasher isn't the kind who would either be too fussed by records or rest on his laurels.

In a chat with Sportstar, Dhoni shares his thoughts on his approach to the game, his success and failure.

The excerpts:

Question: How do you reflect on that glorious day against Sri Lanka when you scored 183?

Answer: The innings was special, a milestone in my life. Honestly, it would be difficult to repeat it, but I am positive that some day I would surpass it. You have to look ahead and set new benchmarks for yourself in order to improve. I made that score playing at No. 3, and the No. 7 slot that I have does not give me much scope to play long or big innings. That knock will remain special. I was there till the end after the fall of an early wicket and there was pressure. I had kept wickets for 50 overs, but I had enough energy to go on and on. I had to give my best that day and I am happy it helped the team to win the match. That is what matters.

How do you assess yourself from the time you walked in to play that innings to now, when you are expected to hit a century every time you take guard?

That was a very different situation from what it is now. Obviously, the responsibilities have increased over the past six months. I have a different batting slot and with it my role too has changed completely. It is working well honestly because it is helping me tackle the pressure better and it is a good feeling to know that the team management thinks I am competent enough to handle the responsibility.

How is it batting at No. 7?

It is challenging, exciting no doubt. Batting at No. 7, anyone would agree, is not easy because it requires a different approach; you have to work hard.

Do you believe in setting targets?

Yes I do. I have my own targets. I do plan my knock and my targets are the ones I can attain. I am very practical about it. I know that if my approach is positive things will take care of themselves. My job is to give 100 per cent but let it be known that I have no control over the outcome.

How do you plan your cricket?

I like to keep my cricket very simple. The ball is there to be hit. Sometimes you have to play a delivery on its merit and sometimes think of innovating. I like to innovate because it throws new challenges to the bowlers. I analyse, think of good things and try to improve my confidence.

How would you evaluate your wicketkeeping?

Personally I feel it has improved from last year. It is a process and, like batting or bowling, takes time to evolve and I have learnt from watching others and talking to them. Not everyone can be perfect. There will be flaws and one would have to work hard to rectify them. There is a lot to cope with and I know I have a long way to go. People have constantly been helping me and I am also working very hard.

How do you react to criticisms? Do they affect you too much?

I never take anything to heart. When there's pressure, I enjoy it. It all depends on what I do. People want me to do well and that's why they criticise me when I fail. There is nothing wrong as long as criticisms aren't personal. I don't get bogged down because someone has criticised me. I am here to do a job to the best of my abilities, and that is what I keep telling myself when I am in the middle.

There must be moments when you are overjoyed, just as there must be times when dejection overcomes you?

I look at things from the right perspective. I will not lose my balance and rejoice extremely when we win. We all do celebrate a win but then we try to learn from it rather than push the shortcomings under the carpet just because we have won. Similarly, I don't get extremely sad when we lose because you win some and you lose some. A defeat teaches you so much.

How do you pick yourself up from a string of poor scores?

You have to enjoy cricket, and enjoy life, especially when you are not doing well. You have to motivate yourself, and that can't happen if you put up a sullen face. I maintain that all of us are not perfect. It is an individual thing that some are crushed by the pressure and some hit back. I hit back.