In terms of impact on Indian cricket, MS Dhoni perhaps ranks right up there with Kapil Dev and Saurav Ganguly. So, we had to feature a piece upon his retirement. Of all the tributes, we found this interview with Michael Hussey who saw Dhoni from the perspective of an opponent, teammate and a coach, quite relevant. Whilst Hussey, himself a good reader of the game, fondly known as Mr Cricket, talks about several aspects of Dhoni, he repeatedly talks about his calm demeanour. Sachin Tendulkar indeed, credits Dhoni’s immense success as a player and captain to this calmness, something that all of us would aspire to achieve irrespective of what field we are in. So how does Dhoni do it and how does it help in his trade? Hussey stresses on Dhoni’s focus on the process than the result as key to his calmness, for then the result becomes just a source of feedback to alter or enhance (if at all) the process to achieve better outcomes in future – a key lesson for all of us irrespective of what field we are in but especially so in investing.
“MS is not a reactive person. He always looks at the bigger picture. He won’t make changes just for the sake of making changes or after a couple of losses. He knows things balance out in the long run.”
Even in the rare occasion he seemed to have lost his cool in the dressing room, the focus was on the effort rather than the result:
“…there was a game two years before, when he wasn’t scoring runs, the team wasn’t playing really well, and he wasn’t happy with the level of effort the guys were putting in on the field. He certainly let us all know we needed to lift our effort. Not so much worrying about the result but the effort we were putting on the ground.”
Hussey then talks about how the calmness helped Dhoni remove emotion and think rationally, particularly important as a captain in cricket who can influence the game significantly through strategy and tactics. The calmness allowed him to go against conventional thinking:
“You always got the feeling that he was one step ahead – whether he was or wasn’t was another thing, but you got the feeling he was. He tried some things that were a bit unconventional where we all felt: why is he doing this? And more often than not it would work and you’d think, ‘Well, that was unbelievable foresight to do that.’…I think he is a very observant person, very intelligent, very perceptive of what’s happening in the game. He reads the game extremely well, and he is his own man as well. …it’s incredible how many times you think: what is he thinking here?
… I think he bucked the trend on how to lead teams. He did it his own way. He did it in a different way to other leaders in history – not just in cricket but even gladiator times, where the fiercest leaders were leading the way. You think of the emotional leaders who just rant and rave to lead by example. He has done it by just being so relaxed and calm. It’s refreshing that someone can have so much success doing it in a completely different way.”
Hussey also talks about how Dhoni’s calmness rubbed off on his team and not only brought the best out of them but also earned their loyalty:
“He wasn’t big on meetings at all, so we didn’t have a lot of preparation meetings and things like that. There will be a couple of minutes literally as the team walked onto the field. He basically gave a little bit of direction but it was more about taking the pressure off the players. I remember a chat before a game and it was, “Guys, just go out there and play tonight. Just smile at the crowd. Some days you win and some days you lose. Just try and execute the skills the best you possibly can.” You could almost see the tension coming out of certain players. You could see their shoulders relax, knowing he would back them to execute their skills.
…I think he has a fair understanding of how a winning team works and how to put together a winning team. Part of that is that he shows enormous faith and gives enormous backing to the players. Even if you have had a number of innings when you haven’t performed, he would still keep picking you and showing that faith in you. That gives you enormous faith in yourself. You believe that you want to go out there and play for him because you know he’s backing you so much….The other side of it is that he is very observant of players. He knows how to pick a really good player. It may partly be down to the character and then he identifies a very good player very quickly and brings him into his family. And once you are part of the family then, well, you are part of the family.”
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