For all those familiar with M.S. Dhoni’s press conferences, this much would have been easy to deduce: the Indian captain loves giving elaborate answers and does a fine job with diplomatic clichés. Quite often, he also packs in a straight-from-the-gut, witty response that sometimes is lost in the heap of words.
At the media interaction organised on Tuesday prior to the Indian team’s departure to Sri Lanka (on Wednesday), Dhoni, benign smile and all, was in complete control of the proceedings. When asked about the long break that players had received, Dhoni began with his patented drawl: “well, of course”.
“The longest break before this was during the 2007 50-over World Cup. We really don’t have fond memories of it. I think this [break] was necessary,” he said. He was duly asked if such breaks should be made mandatory. Dhoni went around in circles of how a long break may not always be possible before slipping in a dose of frankness: “This is the longest break we have got in the last five years and maybe in the coming five years also.”
The next question was on the bilateral series against Pakistan and Dhoni was back to playing safe. “As professional cricketers we are taught not to really get into the emotional side. We are not the persons who decide but now that the series has been announced, we have to try and win matches.”
The 31-year-old spoke about starting the season on a bright note and added that playing in Sri Lanka regularly has made acclimatisation a non-issue. “We have gone there almost every year. The conditions are not very different to India. Most of the players who may be part of the T20 World Cup squad [to be held in Sri Lanka] are familiar with the conditions. That’s good for us.”
When the subject of team morale was brought up, Dhoni’s response was curt. “It’s the start of the season and you have got reports already?”
Coach Duncan Fletcher, who sat glumly all the while, admitted to a “difficult first season” with the team. “I think it was a really difficult season with the team involved in major overseas tours. I have spoken to MS [Dhoni] a few times. I had a chat with him when I came down for the final of the IPL. I don’t think I can air those discussions in this forum and hopefully we have got some plans to turn things around.”
Fletcher, however, said he enjoyed his first stint in a different environment from that of England. “I feel I have got a response from the Indian players. Everyone seems to have enjoyed the input that I, hopefully, have given the side. They are very responsive and keen to learn so once that happens there’s always chance to help.”
He refused to divulge details of his meeting with the BCCI President, N. Srinivasan. “I have had a couple of meetings with the President. I had another meeting this morning. We had a good chat for an hour-and-a-half. We will have to see what happens in the future.”