Off the beaten track

MS Dhoni has taken to badminton to improve his footwork and reflexes

New Delhi: For all those who have followed India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni over the years, his training schedule ahead of a match is very simple. More often than not, he has a light batting session before turning his arm over or pulling pranks on team-mates. And yet when it comes to the match, his footwork and movement makes fans feel that he has been sweating it out at the training ground.

Even pundits have often wondered how Dhoni manages to keep fit and energetic despite the gruelling schedule. On Monday, Dhoni spilled the beans himself.

Zaheer in fray for South Africa tour

While most cricketers of the current generation hit the gym, Dhoni prefers to play a game of badminton to work on his footwork and reflexes during the off season.

While it is rare for Indian cricketers to get a long break between series, the BCCI’s decision to rest him for the tour to Zimbabwe ensured that Dhoni got almost a two-month rest before the Champions League T20.

And Dhoni, in his endeavour to let his body recover fully from the non-stop grind of international cricket, ensured that he stays far away from the gym and instead turn up at on the badminton court.

“I am not a big gym fan. It has been quite a long break and I have not yet initiated weight training. I want the body to recover fully and there is still a month to go before I play in the CLT20. So I have been playing a lot of badminton over the last week. It not only helps improve eyesight, but also the footwork,” he revealed during a promotional event in the Capital.

“But I know that I have to hit the gym as we near the CLT20 and increase the intensity.” Dhoni isn’t the only one fond of badminton. Even Sachin Tendulkar showed a keen interest in the game when he was in the Capital last month and tried his hand at it. While Dhoni has been away from the game, he has kept track of the action and gave an analysis of Virat Kohli’s leadership qualities in the series against Zimbabwe.

“Kohli has done very well. He has been expressive on the field and it is very important to be yourself on the field. He has changed a lot as a cricketer over the past few years. Not just as a batsman, but also the way he approaches the game,” he said.

While some former cricketers believe that youngsters should focus more on Test cricket than T20s, Dhoni begs to differ.

“Each and every format is important and has its own charisma. Also, players don’t get to pick which format they want to play, it is the selectors who pick you and if you prove yourself, you are given an opportunity in other formats. Majority of players in India first play ODIs and if they do well, they are given an opportunity in Test matches. As a player one needs to respect each format,” the 32-year-old said.

Tendulkar recently said that selection shouldn’t only be about statistics and selectors should also look into the player’s ability to handle pressure. Dhoni agreed with the veteran and said often players who are talented are given a longer run, even if they haven’t justified it on the scoresheet.

“Selectors definitely give priority to talent. If the seniors in the team and the management feel that a certain individual is highly talented and deserves a longer run, he is given more opportunities.”

The latest fad is to pick best-ever Indian teams, but Dhoni doesn’t like the idea as he feels that every cricketer who has played for India should be respected equally.

“It’s very difficult to compare and compile all the players and teams of all eras. It is like comparing 2-stroke bikes with 4-stroke bikes — not really fair. Personally, I won’t select my best team ever because I feel we should respect everyone who has played for India, be it one match or 100 matches,” he said.

Dhoni believed that with the ‘A’ team playing in South Africa, it will be easier for those players to acclimatise when the national team goes there.

“I don’t believe in looking too far ahead. The CLT20 and the ODI series against Australia is very important as we haven’t done well against them at home in the shorter formats. But the exposure that the ‘A’ team has got will stand them in good stead as they are getting an opportunity to get used to the conditions,” he said.

Dhoni had earlier said that he would decide by 2013 whether he would continue playing all three formats or retire from one of them.

But he refused to throw much light on it. “There are still five months to go before the year ends, so wait and watch. At present, it is more important that I prepare for the upcoming challenges,” he signed off.

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