One of MS Dhoni‘s defining attributes is his ability to stay ice cool when the spotlight is on him.
We saw it early in his captaincy when he had to navigate past the noise that came with the retirement of senior players such as Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly. Then came Chennai Super Kings’ suspension due to misdemeanours outside the cricket field, and Dhoni – once again under the pressure of the public to react – offered pretty much nothing to the world while dealing with it. And now, at 38 and with his final years approaching, Dhoni has revealed the secret behind his mental strength, and it involves channelling one’s emotions correctly.
“I am like everyone else but I control my emotions better than some of the other individuals,” Dhoni, making an appearance at a commercial event, was quoted as saying by PTI. “I would say, I feel equally frustrated. I also feel angry at times, disappointed. But what is important is that none of these feelings are constructive.
“What needs to be done right now is more important than any of these emotions. What is the next thing I can plan? Who is the next individual whom I can use? Once I get into it, I am controlling my emotions in a much better way.”
Dhoni was making his first commercial appearance since the loss at the World Cup semi-final in July. Under his captaincy, India won three ICC tournaments, but since their triumph at the 2013 Champions Trophy, the the team has been trophy-less. Ganguly, the BCCI president-elect, too brought up the issue of an empty cabinet even though the team had played in five ICC tournaments since then.
India did make it to the semi-final of each event and are currently preparing for the T20 World Cup in October 2020. Dhoni felt success there will depend on the team thinking like a team, throwing back to a moment from the 2007 T20 World Cup win when he made a crucial but unconventional call to use two part-timers in Robin Uthappa and Virender Sehwag in the group stage ‘bowl-out’ victory over Pakistan in the group stage.
“What you want to achieve as a team is to win the tournament but that’s a long-term goal,” he said. “Ultimately, what you do is to break it into smaller things. And It’s not always about few of the individuals performing a lot better than the whole lot. What you want is for everybody to contribute. That one wicket at that right moment, that outstanding catch.
“Ultimately, winning or losing comes to each and every individual who is part of the team. In a team sport, everybody has a role and responsibility. Throughout the  T20 World Cup, the roles and responsibilities given to individuals was fulfilled to the best manner possible. That was the reason we won the tournament.
“There was something particular about that World Cup. The ‘bowl-out’ was one of the things. I remember we would go for practice. Before every practice session, we would practice ‘Bowl Out’ before or after the warm-up. We said it very clear, it is for fun but at the same time, whoever hits the wicket most number of times, we will use him if the situation arises.
“It has got nothing to do with I am a bowler, this is my job. It’s like a performance thing and we will keep doing it everyday and whoever has the best hit-ratio are the ones who will be used.”
Dhoni has not been picked in any of India’s squads since they were knocked out of the World Cup and is unlikely to play in the upcoming T20Is against Bangladesh and West Indies either as the side looks to build towards their squad for the 2020 T20 World Cup. India are set to play an ODI series against West Indies starting December 15, but whether Dhoni will feature there, is yet to be known.
Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.