Standing in the first slip and observing Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s match-reading skills convinced Sachin Tendulkar that he was ready for India captaincy, something he told the BCCI when he was asked for his suggestion back in 2007.
Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid had decided to give juniors a chance in the inaugural ICC World T20 that year and BCCI had asked the Mumbaikar who would be his choice for captaincy.
“I wouldn’t get into details of how it happened but yes, I did say when I was asked (by the BCCI) as to what do I think,” Tendulkar told PTI.
“I had mentioned that I won’t be going to SA as I was carrying a few injuries... But back then, I used to stand in the slip cordon and I used to interact with MS and understand what he was thinking, the field setting and I would discuss all those aspects.
“I observed his match-reading and I came to a conclusion that he had a good cricketing brain so I suggested to the board that this is what I feel. MS should be the next one to take charge,” he added.
Tendulkar said he was impressed by Dhoni’s ability to convince anyone of his decisions.
“Whatever I was thinking and whatever he thought, we were more or less on the same page. If I have to convince you about something, I have to be on your page and that is exactly what happened with MS. We both were thinking alike and that’s why I suggested he should be the one.”
Dhoni’s promotion to Test captaincy in 2008 happened at a time when the Indian dressing room still had Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan as the senior players.
Asked how he rated Dhoni’s handling of the seniors, Tendulkar said: “I can only speak for myself that I didn’t have any aspirations to become captain. I can tell you that I was not wanting to become captain and what I wanted was to go out and win every match for the team.
“For that whoever the captain was, I was going to give 100% all the time and whatever I feel are the right things to do, I was going to tell that person. Then the decision becomes the captain’s but it becomes our duty to take the load off him.”
For Tendulkar, it was his duty to give suggestions to Dhoni and let him enjoy the freedom of taking the final call.
“If each person contributes in different capacities, then there is less load on the captain. That’s what good teams do. The moot idea is to help each other.”
So did Dhoni ever come to Tendulkar with what he expected of him? The batting legend said that it was like a bridge. Both persons traverse a distance and meet at a common point.
“When MS became the Test captain in 2008, I had completed almost 19 years in international cricket. After having played for that long, I also understood my responsibility,” said Tendulkar.
“They looked up to me as an elder brother and it was my duty to guide them and tell them what I feel and also tell them equally. It could not be one way traffic that I tell them and they listen to me. We should have a kind of relationship that they should also be able to tell me what they feel and I believed in that.”
The highest run-scorer in Tests and ODIs feels that one of Dhoni’s biggest contributions was to give confidence to the players he believed in. Rohit Sharma’s emergence as a world-class white-ball opener and Ravindra Jadeja’s elevation as the team’s premier all format all-rounder are a case in point.
“I think for any player to have the captain’s faith in your abilities makes a huge difference. It’s not just this generation but all generations, players have needed support. It surely helps. MS having confidence in a number of players in the team has surely helped us without any doubt,” said Tendulkar.
Another aspect that a young captain can find challenging is friendships with contemporaries in the team.
But Dhoni, according to Tendulkar, set the bar quite high as far as compartmentalising personal and professional equations was concerned.
“I firmly believe that friendship and cricket can be two separate things. You can be friends but that should not affect your ability to take decisions as a captain you want to take. Friendship shouldn’t be dependant on that. Friendship should otherwise only be friendship whether the captain takes decision in your favour or someone else’s favour. Friendship should still last. It has got nothing to do with whether you are getting a chance to play or not.”