Team India will start their ICC T20 World Cup 2021 campaign on Sunday by playing against Pakistan. While they have named a strong team for that, they have also added former India captain, MS Dhoni, as a mentor of the team for the mega event as well. And, former India pace bowler, Lakshmipathy Balaji, who is also a bowling coach of Chennai Super Kings for quite a few years now, said to News18.com that he will not interfere with the roles of the coaches.
“Dhoni was also a part of this same set-up until two years ago. They have been part of the group. So, it is not new for Dhoni. Knowing Dhoni very well, he is not someone who will cross the limits,” said the 40-year-old Balaji. “It is a totally different ball game when it comes to MS as on-the-field contributor and off-the-field contributor. He has proved himself over the years because of his easy approach to the game and also the fact that anybody can go to him and talk about the game. Of course, the aura of MS Dhoni is going to be there. But, what he has maintained over the years with different age groups of cricketers is the ability to connect.”
However, MS Dhoni is known for his calm demeanour who can break the ice between the seniors and the juniors in the team. “In the last decade and a half, what I have seen of Dhoni as a leader, first as a CSK player and then as a member of the CSK support staff, is his ability to connect with the cricketers. You don’t want a disoriented unit. All the current players in the Indian team have played a lot of cricket with Dhoni. There will be no short of communication between them,” he further added.
The former pacer was asked if he got the chance to talk with MS Dhoni about his new role as a Team India mentor, but Balaji has said that they didn’t get the chance to discuss it as their focus was on winning the IPL title. Notably, CSK won the title for the fourth time this season, beating Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) as well. However, Balaji also said that MS Dhoni will work on the loopholes in the team if there is any. And, it is not unknown that Team India has struggled a lot in the knockout stages of the major ICC events in recent times a swell.
“A mentor is a link holder, not a link creator. This Indian team is already led by a leadership group. So, there is less of a role when it comes to rebuilding or re-establishing, as it is an already-established unit. All the major components are already set. It is about stabilising or making it a little bit stronger. There is a marginal factor, which we fail to notice,” Laxmipathy Balaji further added.
“Even if the team is successful, there is something that one is not able to address. Sometimes, that ‘something’ is noticed from the outside. It is here that Dhoni’s expert guidance comes in handy, making it easier for the team. Dhoni has been a part of all the six previous T20 World Cups – all as captain. And, in a tournament like the T20 World Cup, Dhoni is one who has understood many tournaments, been there and done that, knows exactly how white ball cricket is being played. It is these little links like communication and players opening up to him that Dhoni will look to consolidate in the team,” he shared.
He also revealed how MS Dhoni made things comfortable for young Rishabh Pant when he made his debut. Pant, who has become a regular face of the Indian team now, often pulls Dhoni’s leg and the two have a good laugh about it as well And, it became possible because of Dhoni’s gesture towards the youngster.
Balaji continued: “One major advantage is that Dhoni is very open. This approach will make people feel comfortable with him. This is from the communication aspect of it. The trust that Dhoni has in the players and vice-versa. Dhoni has to trust your moves, your approach even though the approach can be of the old school. What I have seen across different generations of cricketers is that, even if the approach is of the old school, it is accepted because of Dhoni’s trust. It may be a little sour but they will enjoy the fruits of it in the end. Dhoni gives the players that assurance, the sense of belonging and at the same time, the individuality will be given importance.”
Laxmipathy Balaji also added that MS Dhoni’s inputs on the tactical side of the game will be helpful for the team. He also believes Dhoni’s knowledge can’t be compared to any other player.
“As a player, as a leader, Dhoni has worked with a lot of coaches over the years. He has handled a lot of them, sometimes two-three of them in one team. And, he has come good with all of them without any hiccup, without any miscommunication, without losing the momentum,” further expressed Balaji.
“Dhoni has been able to get what he wants from his players. His biggest advantage is his ability to remain calm and do simple things. In this team, there may have been some tactical changes made in the knockout stages of the major tournaments. The team has, in the past, made emotional changes to the side. In hindsight, those changes were made to benefit the side, as we come to know later. Look at this side, we have a top order that is intact but the middle-order department needs to be looked into and the fifth bowler option has been unconvincing. This has been hampering India’s chances in recent times, which, I am sure with Dhoni around, will be looked after with greater clarity. With Dhoni’s experience, there will be more clarity and nothing complicated,” again said the veteran pace bowler.
However, he also opened up on the relation between MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli.
“Both Dhoni and Kohli have a cordial relationship from the beginning. Both know the kind of trust each has for the other. Am sure Kohli will take whatever comes from Dhoni and his experience. Dhoni is a man of simple words. He has kept it very very simple all these years. And this approach of his has got the desired results for his team, be it Team India or CSK. He is not someone who will just say from the boundary line. He will make others do it on the field. The leadership of Dhoni has its own pattern,” concluded Balaji.