Dhoni and the art of captaincy in IPL

There is something unique with the way the former Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni leads his team, Chennai Super Kings in IPL.

Wearing the yellow jersey and leading the team right from the inaugural edition, his side has reached the playoffs in every single edition. This is a feat which no other skipper can ever dream of. Yes, he has been the most successful Indian skipper, helping the nation lift two World Cups and emerge as a phenomenal force in World cricket but in IPL, he manages the team so perfectly that even if his team doesn’t look strong on paper, with him at the helm, makes Chennai Super Kings an unstoppable force.

So what makes him special? It is very difficult to crack the Dhoni’s formula of captaining a side in IPL. Other captains might look at him as inspiration but it will be very difficult for them to emulate their master.

The perfect man-management

When the ‘Roar of the Lion’, a documentary about CSK was streamed in Hotstar recently,  there was a mention of how the team got back to the scheme of things immediately after their ban was lifted.  Dhoni and the core group of CSK management started their job of looking for players to play in their side for the 2018 season, months before the auction.

They however, surprised one and all at the auction table by picking players like Ambati Rayudu, Shane Watson and Harbhajan Singh. All the three didn’t play very well in the previous IPL season. The team’s average age was also above 30 and it led to others calling the team, ‘Dad’s army’

However, Dhoni knows a player’s potential and made Watson and Rayudu to open for the team, which paid rich dividends. In the previous season at RCB, Watson was used as a middle-order batsman and mainly as a bowler and he couldn’t perform well. Watson, who enjoys batting at the top, relished his role at CSK while Ambati Rayudu’s prime form helped him make an international comeback. CSK also didn’t have a good capped Indian bowlers and when it was expected that the team would struggle with its bowling. there emerged Deepak Chahar, who made life difficult for the opposition openers with his swing early on in the innings. The way Dhoni believed in his players and the way he managed them made all the difference in the end, helping them lift the trophy.

Balancing wins & losses
Dhoni is also someone who doesn’t take success to his head and get bogged down by a loss. In fact, he doesn’t even react to any result and takes everything in the same way.

He is not someone who craves for wins and in turn focuses on the process to achieve it. He has said it during numerous occasions as India skipper and even after the first loss he faced against Mumbai Indians this season, when asked how he would address the team after the loss, he was still smiling and said “We do more one-on-one stuff rather than team meetings. On a wicket like this, what is important is carefully study which boundaries they could have cut off, and where is the error in execution.”This different approach towards the game is what sets him apart from the rest.

One big family

IPL is a conglomeration of players from different parts of the word. For any skipper leading an IPL franchise, the job would be difficult as he has to get together the players and make sure that everyone gels with each other for the common benefit of the team. However, the CSK management has to be credited because they make players unite as a family.

CSK has many players who have represented other franchises in IPL before but with CSK, they feel they are at home. Coach Stephen Fleming and Dhoni both believe in the importance of having a good dressing room culture in order to breed champions. ‘ We stay smart. We have the best captain in the world, and he keeps reminding us that we’re not the fastest team, but we can be the smartest team. We don’t have team meetings. We don’t plan. We go with the flow in every game. I am close to a lot of players like Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni. We call each other ‘brother’. His [Dhoni’s] wife Sakshi and I also call each other brother and sister,” Bravo said,’ giving a glimpse on the CSK culture.

At 38, Dhoni might be at the twilight of his career but he is still as fit as any youngster in the side. His wicket-keeping skills coupled with his astute reading of the game and the invaluable advice that he gives to the bowlers are still so vital to the team that one may want him to continue playing the game forever.

Aaditya Anand M