MS Dhoni was mentally strong and a smart guy: Ex-India selector Kiran More on early impressions of Ranchi hero
Former India selector Kiran More recalls first impressions of MS Dhoni
More said Dhoni had the ability to study the game well right from his early days
He always conveys messages in few lines: More on Dhoni’s retirement post
“He made selectors’ life easy,” said Kiran More when talking about the breakthrough tour for MS Dhoni. The former chairman of selectors said it was easy to take a call on handing Dhoni his maiden call-up after his performances in India A tour of Kenya.
MS Dhoni might not have been the first-choice wicketkeeper for the Kenya tour with India A. Dinesh Karthik was called up for national duty and Dhoni, who had caught the eye of the selectors, was preferred ahead of Deep Dasgupta who was also in contention.
MS Dhoni grabbed the opportunity with both hands as the long-haired wicketkeeper-batsman dominated bowling attacks in the tri-series against Kenya and Pakistan A.
The television broadcast of the series also helped his case as the cricket fraternity saw Dhoni taking the attack to Pakistan A bowlers in the series. Dhoni finished with 362 runs, including 2 hundreds and a fifty in 6 innings. Dhoni soon got the maiden ODI call-up.
Speaking to indiatoday.in, Kiran More said the selection committee and the team management saw something special in MS Dhoni that urged them to take the gamble and give the wicketkeeper-batsman a chance at the highest level.
More revealed that India were looking to give Rahul Dravid a break from his wicketkeeping role in 2004 and India were looking for wicketkeeper options.
“I give credit to my entire selection panel. But definitely, when I saw him the first time, he came across as a special player, he has done something different than others. 22 guys were playing and there was this one guy who looked outstanding out of that,” Kiran More said.
“When you look at a player like that, you always feel ‘oh wow, this is something special, something different’. That’s what you look at as a selector. That’s what I found in him, even others saw the same.
“When you pick a player, you not only look at performance. You don’t want to base it on the number of hundreds or fifties. You look for a match-winner. The way of his playing cricket, playing shots and keeping wickets.
“Dhoni had done well at the domestic level after which we picked him for India A team. Then he went to Kenya and scored nearly 500 runs. Our lives as selectors become easy when someone performs like that. Because you’re fighting for his place and say this guy can be a future cricketer for India.
“Our lives became very easy. Everybody came on board, saying this guy won matches single-handedly in Kenya. The way he batted in Kenya, the way he dominated the bowling attack and kept wickets. Life becomes easy for selectors to put him in the 14-man squad for India. That’s what happened to us.”
‘Dhoni an exceptional cricketer, studies the game very well’
Kiran More said MS Dhoni had the ability to make the successful transition from domestic to international level. More added the jump is daunting for quite a few players but Dhoni was mentally strong and knew where he needed to improve to seal a permanent spot in the senior team, which he did.
“He was always a smart guy who picked up things very fast. He understood the game very well. He knew to what level he needed to improve. That’s what he did. He is an exceptional guy who studies the game very well.
“Lot of people don’t know what exactly happens to them when they get picked in the Indian team, they suddenly get lost because of the pressure of the international stage. They can get dropped also. They don’t do well in that first appearance but when they go back, they work hard and then they come back into the team.
“International matches are watched worldwide, there is pressure from the media, crowd and you want to do well in the chances that you get. It’s more about your mental state when you’re playing at that level. Dhoni was a mentally strong guy. He understood the game also very well.”
‘India wanted to give Rahul Dravid a break from wicket-keeping duties’
More said there wasn’t any specific conversation with the then India captain Sourav Ganguly but the team management was keen on giving Rahul Dravid a break from his wicket-keeping duties.
Rahul Dravid kept wickets for India in 73 ODIs between 1999 and 2004. Dravid, according to More, put his hands up when India were looking for flexibility in the lead up to the 2003 World Cup.
“We were looking for a wicketkeeper because Rahul had kept wickets for close to 75 matches in ODIs. Rahul kept wickets in the 2003 World Cup. We didn’t want to put pressure on Rahul because of his batting because that was his first priority. Thanks to Rahul that he raised his hand and said he was ready to keep wickets for India. It’s a very difficult thing to say for somebody who was doing well to put his hands up and say he was ready. Hats off to Rahul,” More said.
‘Dhoni has always kept it simple’
Meanwhile, More said he wasn’t surprised when MS Dhoni announced his international retirement on August 15, saying his message on Instagram was a reflection of the ‘simple’ manner in which he approached his game.
“That’s what MS Dhoni is about. He has given a surprise on a beautiful day of the 15th of August, Independence Day. He did with a beautiful song and a beautiful message. So he summed it up very nicely.
“That’s Dhoni. He always conveys messages with few lines only. That’s what he did in cricket also, he kept it simple. That’s how he gave this small Insta message to the world,” More said.