Richie Benaud, a former captain of Australia once claimed that the great sportsman is the one who knows how best to handle the pressures of the day and the situations about to land upon him, the one who is able to gauge when the pressures are being applied to him and when they must be applied to others.
Dhoni is in that category and as captain of India he has been able to transfer those personal skills to the members of his team. He has improved their self-belief and self-confidence and has taught them, by example, how to face up to pressure in a positive way and use it to their advantage.
Teams that can keep their heads and collective wits under the greatest pressure will win most of the time. Under these conditions it is the concentration and the depth of the players’ motivation and self-discipline that determine the level of the team’s performance.
This was evident in the final game of the Champions Trophy: India kept their heads, discipline and concentration when the pressure was greatest while England lost theirs, panicked and crumbled.
Dhoni does not think that his technical skills are as good as those of the great players, but mentally he matches the best of them. Of pressure, he said to me in a recent interview: “I see pressure as an opportunity to do well. If you are under pressure you should not see it as a danger and give in to it.
You should see it as a challenge that will give you a chance to excel and be a hero for your team and country. I prefer to look at pressure as an opportunity rather than a threat.
“People say a lot of negative things about pressure. Pressure to me is just added responsibility. That is how I look at it. It’s not pressure when God gives you an opportunity to be a hero for your team and country.
“If you expect pressure and have a plan to deal with it, you will know exactly what to do when it comes, and more often than not you will use it in a positive and productive way.
The best way to deal with it is to stay in the moment and don’t get trapped in the past or caught up in the future on the result or on what might happen. If you stay in the moment, calm your mind and focus on the process you won’t feel much pressure.”
Dhoni must be congratulated for his visionary leadership, great motivational skills and amazing achievements as captain of India. To continue on his winning ways he must now find new ways and new challenges to motivate himself and his team to be the best that they can be.
Vince Lombardi a famous US football coach once said that coaches and captains who can outline plays on a blackboard are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their players and motivate.