Ranchi: Former India captain Ravi Shastri spoke to The Telegraph over breakfast at the Radisson Blu on Saturday. The interview’s ‘theme’ was Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the current captain.
Shastri just let go.
The following are excerpts
A small-town boy getting to captain his country on home ground... Could it get better than the Dhoni story?
It cannot... I’d never expected history to repeat itself, I’d never expected that like Kapil Dev (Chandigarh), there would be another impact-maker from outside the big cities.
Kapil reached lofty heights; Dhoni has climbed the Everest of cricket... He has nothing more to achieve.
What were your first impressions of Dhoni, when he made his India debut, in December 2004?
I don’t think I was a commentator on that tour of Bangladesh, but the first impressions were obviously good.
When did you get to interact with Dhoni at some length?
During the 2007 tour of Bangladesh, when I was the cricket manager... Dhoni’s clarity of thought stood out, there was no grey for him. I found that very refreshing.
How would you assess Dhoni’s eight-year career?
Dhoni has done more than what many would do in a lifetime. Also, the way he has conducted himself has been exceptional.
Should Dhoni be considered an all-rounder?
For me, he has always been one.
What’s your take on Dhoni, the captain?
Well, Dhoni has achieved everything... Won the World T20, won the World Cup, taken India to No.1 in the Test rankings... However, there have been times when one has felt he could have stamped his authority more... But let’s not forget that, of late, he’s been at the helm during a transition phase.
Is there a quality which stands out?
All great captains put the team ahead of themselves. Let me assure you Dhoni’s a selfless captain.
Has Dhoni gone beyond the use-by date where the captaincy is concerned?
Absolutely not... The biggest load of bullshit I’ve heard is that Dhoni should be given a break from T20... After all, how many T20 Internationals do we play in a year? Dhoni is the Dada in T20... Besides, I feel he could win another World T20... His best chance is there... That’s the format... Also, in my opinion, there’s nobody who is ready... So, don’t ruin somebody’s career by thrusting the India captaincy on him.
Are you referring to Virat Kohli?
It could be Virat, it could be somebody else.
What if Dhoni gets to a stage where the captaincy becomes a burden?
Knowing Dhoni, I’m sure he’ll himself tell the authorities. He’s that upright.
Do captains have a shelf life?
Of course, but it varies... I’m sure in the next 12-18 months, Dhoni will relinquish the captaincy in one format, possibly Test cricket.
What will Dhoni, the captain, be best remembered for — winning the World T20, taking India to No.1 in the Test rankings or winning the World Cup?
Everything... Dhoni has been India’s most successful captain... I’m not going by numbers, but by medals... Dhoni has three, the achievements you’ve mentioned.
The other day, Virat told me that he’d love to have ‘MS’ calmness and composure’... A nice compliment...
Absolutely... The composure and calmness is there for everybody to see... Dhoni’s been a fantastic ambassador not just for Indian cricket, but for the game. Even in defeats, he conducts himself with dignity.
How do you view Ranchi becoming the latest centre to host international cricket?
Amitabh Choudhary (the Jharkhand State Cricket Association president) has managed an astounding feat... To have single-handedly pulled it off deserves high praise... Just goes to show that if you have the drive and the passion, then nothing is impossible.
Lastly... To keep Test cricket alive, should the matches be held in the smaller centres, like Ranchi?
(Passionately) Definitely... In the Ranchis, in the Kochis and in the Indores... Not only will the Tests attract crowds, I foresee plenty of talent coming from the smaller centres. The nurseries will be there.