Sure he hasn’t had a team-mate of his slap another on a playing field. But the Indian national hockey team captain Sardar Singh doesn’t exactly shepherd a group of stick-wielding Buddhist monks in his chosen sport.
His hockey herd is perhaps far more combustible than MS Dhoni’s bunch,and when the two met recently on the sidelines of an IPL game and traded notes on their comparative headaches when leading sides,the Indian cricket captain rightly commended his hockey counterpart on his ability to keep decorum among his explosive bunch of hockey players.
“He congratulated me on the fact that we in hockey had managed to keep the team together and move in the same direction for the last few years,” Sardar said,recalling his longish interaction with the Indian captain,who routinely micro-manages several fiendish storms of his own. The duo had met briefly once earlier,but sat down for a relaxed tete-a-tete of mutually-empathising responsibilities at the Kotla,where Sardar was a guest at the post-match presentation after the Mumbai-Chennai game on Tuesday.
Indian hockey is legendary for its fractious past,notwithstanding the eight Olympic gold medals over the years,and this weighty baggage means hockey players suffer from the same pressures to perform,and inquisitions in times of chronic failure as their cricketing brethren.
“He told me I’m doing well despite the pressure,but I picked his brains on man-management on and off the field.”
keep calm,carry on
Sardar’s always admired Dhoni for keeping his churchly calm amidst all the ruckusing that goes on in the high-octane world of Indian cricket,but Dhoni’s pithy prescription to never get harsh in wording or aggressive in tone with team-mates has imprinted itself on the hockey midfielder’s sharp brain now,Sardar insists. “It’s always high-pressure and people are quick to get angry in such situations. Dhoni told me to never get drawn into any altercation with opponents on the field,neither explode against team-mates behind closed doors. Anger never helps,he said,” Sardar,himself a soft-spoken man,recalls.
The challenge of dealing with losses as Dhoni who endured a 0-8 wretched run in Tests and a rash of controversies would know is multi-pronged. “He said first public starts getting vocal and berating the team. Instead of retorting back,he said that you should admit that you have been beaten and assure them that you will try harder next time. ” Dhoni told the senior hockey player after both players exchanged numbers and enquired after each other’s families.
Dhoni also warned Sardar that the most prickly situation for a captain is when after a defeat,players start blaming each other for what’s gone wrong. “You have to refrain from taking sides on such occasions. Everyone’s hurting,so it’s best to not aggravate anyone. You should always calm down,relax after a match,and then pull the team back to the objective of tackling the next challenge. These team meetings cannot be long-drawn,it should be quick 8-10 minutes where everyone’s told about what they should do in the next game,and wrap it up,” Dhoni is supposed to have told Sardar,who is known in hockey circles for taking responsibility for the whole team’s failures,and his gentle handling of erring team-mates.
While the hockey ace isn’t much of a cricket buff “I just know Sachin paaji’s batting and some players who are doing well in the IPL”. He is impressed with how Dhoni almost wordlessly conducts his team on the field. “He doesn’t talk much,and that’s the beauty of his captaincy,” Sardar gushes.