MS Dhoni: Here's why he is known as the cool one

Updated: Jan 24, 2019, 08:09 IST | Dr Rudi Webster | Mumbai

Dhoni's composure under pressure, the clarity and simplicity of thinking and cool manner in which he assesses pressure situations is quite impressive

India's MS Dhoni plays a pull shot against Australia during the third ODI at the MCG last week. Pic/AFP
India's MS Dhoni plays a pull shot against Australia during the third ODI at the MCG last week. Pic/AFP

Strength does not come from physical capacity; it comes from an indomitable will. These words of Mahatma Gandhi fit nicely into India wicketkeeper MS Dhoni's character and achievements. In 2006 after my first mental session with Dhoni during my short stint with Team India, I told coach Greg Chappell how impressed I was with Dhoni's mental skills. I also told him that I thought he could become a future captain of India.

Using an induced affect technique during that session I placed him under enormous pressure to see how well he would cope. He passed the test with flying colours. At the time, I couldn't remember any of the many athletes around the world with whom I had worked who had done better. What impressed me most was his calmness under pressure, his patience and concentration, the clarity and simplicity of his thinking, and the cool manner in which he assessed the pressure situations he faced.

Great mental strength
Dhoni was not yet a regular member of Team India; his technical skills were not the best at that stage. But because of his mental strength, I was confident that he would soon improve those skills, that he would make the team and would eventually become one of India's stars. Years later in Dominica during India's 2011 tour of the West Indies, Dhoni told me, "There are many players with talent and good technique who never get the success they deserve. I believe the missing ingredient is mental control — that's my strength. The mind plays a very big part in performance."

He continued: "I love the challenge and the pressure. They have always pushed me to do well. 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 your country." Not only did he know how to deal with the pressures that were placed upon him but he also knew how and when to apply pressure to others. The depth of a player's concentration, self-motivation and self-discipline usually determines the level of his success. Dhoni excelled in those three areas.

Learning mindset
Dhoni has a powerful learning mindset. He once told me, "Every player should regard the journey to success as an exciting and challenging learning experience. Even for the very talented players performance is a learning process that takes time, effort and persistence. If you are motivated to learn you will learn something new every day. God gives natural gifts to all of us. We need to realise that and work to strengthen them and to learn and improve in those areas where our weaknesses lie."

Dhoni has very strong and important beliefs about teamwork: "Not only should the player enjoy his own performance on the field, but he should also get pleasure from sharing his experiences with other players, and from creating an atmosphere that helps the guy sitting next to him in the dressing room to perform better. This is one area where the Indian team is very blessed. The senior players in our team have helped the younger players to learn, develop and perform better. Individual performance is important but how much better you help your teammates to perform is equally important."

Perhaps, Rahul Dravid passed on the following philosophy about pressure to Dhoni: "When you understand that pressure is part and parcel of your life and that there are things you can do to control it, you will face up to it in a positive way and use it to your advantage."

Grenada-based Dr Rudi Webster is a renowned sports psychologist

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