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I love going back to my simple life: Dhoni
Posted By:Hajas On 9/26/2007

I love going back to my simple life: Dhoni
TNN / Bobilli Vijay Kumar

He is the new face of Indian cricket. Cool, calculated and very confident on the field. But what is he really like off it? TOI presents the lighter side of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Is Dhoni the player very different from Dhoni the person?

Yes, I am. I am pretty aggressive on the field, that's my game. But off the field I am just a bit careless. When I am not playing I prefer a life that is far away from the game. I don't like talking too much about cricket. In fact, I don't speak a lot. That's one of my main characteristics. I am a very good listener. It is one of the qualities that has probably helped me. I listen to everybody, even to people I shouldn't be listening to. I am also very emotional. But hardly anybody knows that as I control my emotions very well. I am fun-loving and have a good sense of humour. I don't think I am the captain, vice-captain or a senior player so I should do this, or not do this. I don't worry what people will say or think. I just do what I think is right.

What kind of lifestyle do you have when you get back home?

It's very simple. Stay with the family. Play with the dogs. Clean my bikes. Ride them. Go to dhabas. Whatever I used to do earlier, I do the same things even now. There are lot of high-profile parties but I rarely go to them. I don't like seeing too many people around me. I mingle very well, get along with people easily. But if there are fewer of them, I like it. I don't like crowds.

How did your passion for bikes begin?

I love speed. In India, speed means bikes. They give you a feeling of being free. Fresh air in the face. I was also bitten by it early. Right now, I can proudly say I am a big bike freak. I have 10 bikes back home. Some sports bikes; a few oldies. I also endorse a motor cycle brand and they made a special bike for me last year.

What was your first bike? A Luna? What is your favourite one?

No. It was a Yamaha, Sports RX 13. I love three bikes. The TVS bike because it has been designed for me. It's the only bike in the world and I alone have it. So that's very special. Then an old sports RD 350. It's a two-stroke bike. That was the first real fast bike in India. It was launched with the movie Hero. It had six gears at that time. Way ahead of its time. The third one is a Kawasaki GX 14. The latest one they have got and it's one of the fastest too and 1300 plus, four-stroke bike. It's very different, even the feel.

What's the maximum speed you have done?

I have done 200. But that was only once. Usually when I get a big sports bike I might stretch myself and go up to 100 or 120. I enjoy driving like that. It's just about the feeling. Not about the speed. I don't like to ride too fast. Or rashly. Not the 200s or 250s for me, even though some of my bikes are capable of doing over 300.

No Harleys??

No. Not yet. But that's going to be my next bike. I have begun my enquiries. The 2008 Fat Boy is what I aiming for. If you are bike freak you got to have it. It's the cult.

Are the roads in Ranchi big enough for your bikes? Or are they making them for you?

Well, I don't like to drive too fast. But there are roads where you can drive fast even there. Especially in some stretches where there aren't too many people. It's a small city but it's not so bad. And things are improving a great deal.

Don't you get mobbed now when you step out on your bikes?

Not really. It happened only once when I went to a salon. Before that or since then it hasn't happened. It's not a problem at all if I ride a bike. I stop wherever I want to. I go to dhabas, roadside eateries. I love the tea in such shops. It's a completely different life out there. And I can't wait to get back there.

Are you superstitious?

Yes, I believe in God. So you can call me superstitious. I think 99 per cent of cricketers are superstitious. But I won't tell you mine. Although some of them have become routines. You do them all the time. Every batsman has a routine. So it's not a superstition all the time. But if you don't do it, you feel a little uncomfortable. Like you are missing something.

But you love the number seven.

Yes. I am born on the seventh of July. So that is seven and seven. 81 is my year of birth. It also works out to seven. Nobody has told me it is my lucky number. I have just taken it as my own. I really feel good about it. I can't tell you how or why. But that's how it is. The India A team was announced on the 7th of July, when I was celebrating my birthday at the camp. Lots of other good things have happened on 7th too.

Do you carry the number on you?

I used to have a seven diamond pendant. But I don't wear it anymore. I carry it in my bag. You will hardly see me wearing gold or anything flashy. I just prefer wearing a watch.

You don't sledge on the field. Talk too much. Is that a conscious thing?

Yes. I have never believed in sledging. It is not my personality. I rarely indulge in chit chat with the batsmen or get distracted by the talk around me.

But isn't that one of the jobs of the wicket-keeper? To motivate the team, needle the batsmen?

To motivate the team, you don't have to sledge. You don't have to shout. You can do it by your expressions. By hand signals. It's up to the players. Some might get motivated by doing that. Some might find other means. You can shout as hard as you want. But if your players don't respond to it, it won't help you or the team in any way.

But don't you ever talk to the batsmen? It need not be dirty or negative?

Yeah. Some times we do have a laugh about something. We do say things to disturb the batsman but they are never personal from my side. I don't use any abusive words.

Do you get disturbed when batting?

No. If somebody gets aggressive or starts abusing me, I love it. It gets interesting then, in the middle.

Were England sledging a lot in the series?

I won't say that. But yes, I will say they are a good side. They are aggressive. Competition is good.

Tell us about the Dhoni special stroke? The whip to long on, to yorker-length deliveries...

That has come from tennis ball cricket. When you play on an 18-yard wicket, bowlers tend to bowl yorkers. The only way you can tackle them is by playing this stroke. That's the only way to score off it. That's how it started and I worked on it and refined it along the way. It's working for me. As long as it is good for me and the team I am fine.

It must be a very difficult stroke though.

Yes it is. You can even get injured very seriously. A few times I have hit my own leg. It can get very painful. Some players have tried it but with disastrous results. They have injured themselves. So I sincerely hope they don't try it till they master it.

At what stage did you realise cricket is your life?

I never really thought I would become a cricketer. It all happened very gradually. In fact, as you know I've grown up in Ranchi, a small town. I had a simple life as a kid, a kind of routine that I followed everyday. Getting up in the morning, studying for half an hour, going to school, back by 1.30, lunch, rest for some time, play from 4 to 6, study, eat and sleep. Every day it was the same. So I never really thought about it. I just used to play cricket and I used to enjoy it. Just like when I studied I used to enjoy that too. Basically, I moved from one step to the next, one level to the other one.

So when did that change? When did you see a future in it?

It was only when I made the India A tour. It turned out to be a crucial tour for me. It was being televised live so that was a huge boost. I performed fairly well and I felt I would get at least one chance to play for India. Either very soon or some time in the future. I knew it could be just for one or two games though. I knew if I took those chances then it could be cricket. If not it would be back to Ranji, Duleep and a job somewhere. I was pretty realistic about it.

The call did come. But the debut wasn't a great one...

Yeah, the first three matches were not good. In the first one, I got run out off the first ball. Then I got 13 or so, holing it straight to midwicket. In the third one, I was 7 not out. But somehow I got the feeling I would get one more chance. And it came against Pakistan. The team was announced for the first two matches only and it struck me that these could be the last two matches of my life for Team India. If I do well, fine I go on. If not, I am out of the team. The second one was even worse. Sourav asked me to bat at number three. I said this is it. If I want to be in the side, I have to perform. Or just pack my bags and go back home. I got 148. I had bought myself, literally, another 10 matches in the team. I was taking every match as my last one. I had a bit of pressure on me. And I was putting more on myself. But that is the way I am. I perform under pressure. That's what has given me success.

Finally, you got the breakthrough in Tests. But landed up facing Shoaib!

Yes, that was seriously fast. That was the first time I was facing a super fast bowler. I played a few who bowled at 135 or 140. But this was 153 with the new ball. He was bowling very quick. Especially when I went into bat, he was in full flow. Sachin was batting at the other end. He realised I was under pressure. He simply came to me and said I should play my natural game. This is not the way you have come here; just feel free and play the way you know. After a few balls I edged one over the slips. I decided I would be better off attacking. That's how I made my gameplan for that knock. I went after the bowling and it clicked.

So as a batsman is that your main trait? Fighting out of holes?

Yes, I am aggressive. A natural stroke-player. But now I try and play according to the situation. Do what the team needs from you; what the situation demands. But being a stroke-maker at times when you get out, it doesn't look very pleasing. But you have to realise that's exactly how you have become a successful sports person. So you should back yourself, to play the shots. If you make a mistake learn from it. It's not being rash at all.

At this point, what is the weakness in your batting?

Lots of them, you know. But I don't think about them. I focus more on my strengths. I don't neglect my weaknesses, keep working on them. Especially because I haven't played all over the world. This was my first tour to England; I hadn't played here in any form of the game so it was a very different experience. Learning is a constant process. You go to different places; every situation is different. Every bowling attack is different. You learn something from every game. The important thing is to be open-minded.

This interview was conducted in England, during the ODI series.

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