Adversity seems to bring the best out of him
I have to perform the task assigned to me and I enjoy itI believe criticism comes from people who want you to do well
JAIPUR: He is embarrassed when reminded that he is a cult figure for the young generation. He is also embarrassed when told that he has lured the older generation back to the cricket field. None since the advent of Sachin Tendulkar has captured the imagination of Indian cricket fans as Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who can sell a mobike to even a blind, if he happens to be a cricket lover.
Dhoni returns to the same venue, Sawai Man Singh stadium here, where he achieved a milestone when faced with elimination. His 183 not out, at number three after having kept wickets for 50 overs, against Sri Lanka a year ago came under severe pressure but with the freedom that marks his robust batting.
He remembered that glorious afternoon that resurrected his career. "Needless to say, my life changed completely after that wonderful day. I went in early and I was there until the end. There was pressure to get quick runs as well as to get big runs, and most importantly, that knock helped the team win the match. It was a very different situation.
"There was far greater responsibility on my shoulders, and a different batting slot. But my role has changed completely. That innings was special. You would agree it is not an everyday achievement. It was a milestone in my career. It will be difficult to repeat, but I have to stay positive. My role has changed now that I am mainly batting at seven. It is a very different challenge."
Fame came rapidly and elevated the affable Dhoni to a high pedestal in world cricket. Bowlers feared him and coaches plotted tactics to gun him. He moved on, relentless and hungry as ever. But the last six months have been tough, especially the last ten matches 138 runs in eight innings at 19.71.
"Obviously, things have not been the same as my debut and the six months after that. Please remember, I have not been batting up the order. I have to perform the task assigned to me and I enjoy it. It is not humanly possible to get big centuries every time. A 20-ball 40 at number 7 is as important to the team as a century, at number 3. It depends on the situation and the requirements of the team. Batting at six or seven, quick runs matter the most.
Dhoni is not unduly worried when faced with poor form. His approach is simple. "I try to simplify my cricket by thinking of good things in life. I constantly analyse my game and look at way to improve. I don't have any control over the outcome but giving hundred per cent is entirely in my hands. Nothing makes my very happy and nothing makes me very sad, because I know not everyone can be perfect."
Adversity seems to bring the best out of him. "I have my own targets and I am very practical about it. I have to set targets that are achievable. A hundred when you take guard in the 20th over is gettable, but a fifty when you walk out in the last ten overs can be very, very good. I plan my things match to match, and series to series."
Dhoni is a rare cricketer in terms of accepting criticism. "I look at it (criticism) positively because I know when I do well, it is the same critics who praise me. So when I don't do well, they have the right to criticise me. I always believe that criticism comes from people who want you to do well. There is nothing wrong in criticism as long as it is not personal. In my life, I have never got bogged down by anything."
The dashing cricketer from Jharkhand also believes he has made steady progress behind the stumps. "I think I have improved. A lot depends on situations. There are lots of things to cope with. People are constantly trying to help me and I am also putting in my best. I am happy, but I know there is still a long way to go."
The city, meanwhile, awaits its hero for the Champions Trophy match against England on October 15.