Dhoni shuts out off-field issues
MS Dhoni is into his seventh year as India captain. It all started for him with the 2007 World T20, and for the first time after that, India are in the final of another edition of the tournament. In this time, Dhoni has seen "almost everything" there is to see in the game. He, as well as India, have been through on-field transition as well as off-field controversy.
The latter word just refuses to leave Indian cricket alone, and brings additional pressure with it. Somehow, Dhoni and his men have managed to win a Champions Trophy surrounded by IPL-related controversy, and could hold all three major limited-overs titles if they beat Sri Lanka on Sunday, again amid the grip of similar controversy. As he stood on the cusp of another major triumph, Dhoni said that through his tenure, he had tried to control what he could while trying to ignore anything beyond that domain.
"Over the years that I have been the captain I have seen almost everything," Dhoni said. "There is nothing really that I have not seen in cricket. We have Indian cricket perform at their best and at the same time we had to go through a lean patch where we had really tough times. Controversies are big part of Indian cricket and I have been through all it. There's hardly any good or bad in Indian cricket that happens without my name. We have to go through everything but the good thing is we have to concentrate on the process more.
"I know there are certain things that are in my control. I look to move in that direction rather than thinking or living a thought that's beyond my control and that has really helped me. It's been an interesting time, ups and downs. That's all it's all about - in international sport it doesn't matter which game you are playing. It has taught me a lot and it's still a learning curve for me and hopefully it will teach me many more in coming life after cricket."
When asked how his leadership had changed over these years, Dhoni said that was for watchers to judge, but added that he had tried to own up to his mistakes every time. "That's not really for me to decide because from outside, you can judge it better than me. Of course, I take it as a job and responsibility, I have been given the responsibility and I try to fulfill it to the best potential that I have got.
"At the same time, as an individual, you will make mistakes and as a captain. I feel it is very important that if you commit a mistake, you go out there and admit it because it won't always go your way because the captain, almost 98% of the time, decides on something but it is somebody else who has to fulfill the job. Ultimately, it depends on the person and how he responds to the situation. You try to be honest to yourself, you read the game and decide something. If it doesn't work, you stand up and take the responsibility because that's what your job needs you to do."
India have won three major finals under Dhoni, at the 2007 World T20, the 2011 World Cup and the 2013 Champions Trophy. Was it that he was able to step up his leadership when it came to ICC tournaments? Dhoni did not think so, preferring to give credit to his players instead.
"Not really. I think the players have responded really well. If you talk about this tournament, your spinners have come into action. They got a bit of purchase off the wicket and they made sure that they capitalised on that. That's what the team environment is all about.
"When the fast bowlers have conditions that are in favour of them, then they have to deliver and when it is not in favour of them, when you are playing on flat wickets but it has a bit of turn, then the spinners have to come into action and I felt in this tournament, the spinners have done a fantastic job.
"Depending on different games, all of them have contributed, even the part-timers, somebody like Suresh Raina has bowled really well whenever we have needed him. Overall it is a perfect team environment where somebody needs to do the job and there have been individuals who rose to the occasion and said I will be the person who will take the responsibility."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo