Rajdeep Sardesai: It gives me great pleasure to give the CNN-IBN Indian of the Year in the category of Sports for 2011 to the one and only Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the captain of the Indian cricket team. Mahi, many, many congratulations, a trophy most deserved. I don't think there was any other contender for this award and it's been a fantastic year for you.
MS Dhoni: Well, thanks to my team. I think we did really well this year, apart from one series. I can take this on behalf of the whole team. Of course, winning the World Cup might have pushed the jury to select me but overall the team really deserved this award.
RS: You are saying the team deserved this, but this team really could not be without you. It's been a really special year, hasn't it? The World Cup, of course, was the pinnacle of what you achieved but it's been a remarkable year. Did you, at the start of 2011, and now at the end of the year, that you would be a World Cup champion? Honestly?
MSD: It was a difficult task ahead of us. Most of the people in India through we'd win the World Cup, the reason being that we were hosting the World Cup. If you see the stats, none of the host countries had yet won the World Cup before this edition, so there was a fair amount of pressure on the players but we were worried about fitness. If all of the 15 that get selected are available, and if we play to the kind of potential we have, then we will win the World Cup. But it [pressure] keeps on mounting.
I remember playing Australia in the quarter-finals; people thought that was the biggest game of the World Cup. Then it was Pakistan in the semi-finals. I remember we were travelling and people were like 'win this match, we don't care about the final!' As soon as we won the semi-final, it they were like 'it doesn't matter what you've won, now you have to win the final. If you don't win the final it won't be nice!' I think there was pressure, which was the ultimate thing.
RS: But I don't remember seeing pressure on your face. All these months even in bad times .. when you were in England, when things weren't going right .. you didn't seem to feel the pressure. What is it? Do you do some sort of yoga, meditation? I often wonder whether you do Buddhism. What is it that keeps you so cool?
MSD: Well, I don't practice any of the above things. I love to be in the moment. I analyze things a bit. Very often, its important to realise what went wrong, not only when you are losing a series but when also when you're winning a series or a game. You need to realise the areas that you need to work on. Especially if you see the England series, losing players at crucial times .. it never really went our way. Losing Zaheer Khan in the first game, then Bhajji was not there, Gautam [Gambhir] getting injured in the first game and not being available for the second, all these things really mattered. Of course, we could have done slightly better. We were in positions in the Test matches where the game was slightly in our favour, but without the kind of explosive power that you need to tame a side like England it is a bit difficult. Especially when it comes to the longer format.
RS: Forget the English tour; that was the bad dream. The real dream that we all lived was to win the World Cup. There was a moment when you hit that six to win the World Cup, when you suddenly twirled your bat. For the first time I saw on emotion on your face. Was it just all those days and weeks when you'd kept it under you and suddenly said 'I've achieved it'? It was the first time I really saw you explode.
MSD: Its one of the biggest things for us. As Indian cricketers playing at the top level we all want to be part of a World Cup-winning side. The last time won the 50-over version was 28 years ago. Most of the people who were part of the side wanted to win the World Cup, so as soon as we got into a position where we saw the World Cup coming in our dressing room that was when the emotions started to flow. If you see, before the post-match presentation almost each and every player cried …
RS: Did you cry?
MSD: Yes, I did. You don't really have footage of that!
RS: Nobody has that footage! Mahendra Singh Dhoni crying after winning the World Cup?
MSD: Yes, I did. It's very difficult to control an emotion like that. I tried to control it and wanted to go up to the dressing room, but all of a sudden I see two of my players crying and running to me. It was very difficult. Fortunately, all of a sudden when I started crying I looked up and there was a huddle around me. It just happened that you don't have footage and instead just see me coming up and doing that [wiping away tears] but it was a very emotional time.
RS: Each and every one of us cried. It's a great story: you started off in Ranchi, you worked your way up to achieve this. What has been the most difficult part? Has it been a difficult journey or something you always felt you were going to do one day? One day you'd win CNN-IBN Indian of the year; one day you'd win all these awards; one day perhaps you'd be the most recognized face in India? Has it been a very difficult journey, Mahi?
MSD: I love being in the present. When I was playing for my school the only thing I wanted was to get selected for the Unde-16 and Under-19 district teams. Once I represented a district I would think about the next level, which was the state side. I'm a person that lives in the moment. Frankly speaking, I never thought that I'd be representing my country one day when it comes to this sport. Now I am leading my country. So it's like a fairytale, but I never thought I'd do all these things. I lived in the moment, I kept working hard, I never expected to get a call for the Indian cricket team in the very next meeting. I told myself, wherever they select me, whatever they select me for, I will go there and try to do my best and put pressure on the selectors to select me. I was never disappointed when I did not get selected for India A or the Indian team.
RS: Do you owe this to someone? Is there one person you would say is responsible for making Mahendra Singh Dhoni what he is today?
MSD: Every small thing counts. Of course, my parents for the reason being they were never against the sport. Time management was very important, so 4-6pm was the time I used to play in the winter. Summers being longer days you could play for longer in the evening. But they never told me not to enjoy the sport, so I think that was the crucial period. If there was any stoppage from my parents then it would have gotten quite difficult. Parents are very special. As are each and every person, every friend that helped me go through the bad phases in life, such as 2007.
RS: You got married last year, and now you've become a World Cup champion this year. What was more difficult: winning the World Cup or getting married?
MSD: Both of them are difficult jobs to do (smiles). All of a sudden you have someone in your life that is with you for 24 hours and you have to adjust to her, and she has to adjust to your kind of living. I think the first six months go by trying to understand each other a bit better. Being boyfriend and girlfriend is OK, you are over the phone most of the time. But living together you have to make some changes.
RS: How have you handled this pressure? Both of winning this World Cup and even after, you know it's all very well for me outside to think that you seem so cool, but how do you handle it? What do you do to keep away from this pressure? Do you just not think of cricket when you aren’t playing the game?
MSD: I like to stay away from the game when I am not playing it. Of course, you know there is hardly been any break in between series. So we have been kept busy .. that's also the good thing because now once we go back home for seven or eight days and after the first two and three days we realise, OK we are missing something. So cricket has been a big part of our life.
RS: And what you do at home? I have often wondered, how do you relax at home? I have seen you occasionally with your dog or on a motorbike; sometimes I see you in a temple somewhere. How does Mahendra Singh Dhoni relax?
MSD: I love to go back to Ranchi. I have three dogs back at my home and the best thing is even after losing or winning a series they treat me or greet me in the same way, so that really relaxes me. And of course, getting up quite late in the morning, trying to clean my bikes in Ranchi, spending some time with my family, my parents, going out on a drive with my friends, having lunch or dinner at the road side or a hotel - that’s my favourite time pass. These are things that really excite me.
RS: Was there a moment in this World Cup journey, which you thought was the moment which made us World Cup champions? As a captain you must have seen your players; when did you first feel that 'I have a team now which can win this World Cup'? Because there were moments in those early rounds where it looked like we might a struggle a bit.
MSD: We always had the kind of self-belief that was needed, because we have been playing good cricket over the past two and half years in either format - in Test cricket as well as the shorter formats. So our biggest worry as I said was the injured list and with the kind of breaks that we have between two games. I think we can manage with minor injuries in the people having a few niggles. They can be close to 70 or 80 per cent fit and be available for the next game. So that was the only worry, somebody gets injured in a big way all of sudden. That can be one factor that could really restrict us not winning the World Cup.
RS: The shots you play are unique but there is one shot .. the people call it the helicopter shot. It is a unique shot; did you practice this as a young boy in Jharkhand when you were playing Under-16? Or is this s shot that you evolved over the years? Or does it just come naturally to you?
MSD: I think I used to play lot of a tennis-ball cricket. We would play on 16 to 18-yard wickets with a lawn-tennis ball, so more often when we try to push the yorker ball that’s the kind of shot that was needed to hit it for a six. Because in tennis ball [cricket] you always have to middle it even if you are using the bottom part of the bat and if you hit it quite well it will always goes over the boundaries.
RS: You are making it sound very easy, to hit a ball which is a yorker for six. And the manner that you do is not easy. Is it something that you practice? You are saying that it came as a young boy playing tennis-ball cricket or is it something which you become better at over the years?
MSD: I think I became better as I practiced. I used to use it in the game, and not to forget I often hit my left ankle by doing that. That was the time I was learning it. Over the years you get better and better, now I see a few other people trying to copy it and hitting their left ankle. And I am like OK, don't worry, I have also started like that.
RS: You keep, you bat, you captain. It must be tiring, have you ever felt this in 2011? Ki yaar bahut ho gaya, I want to go with my wife, we are going to Ladhak or somewhere for one month away from everyone else. Have you ever thought ki yaar let me take a break from this game for one month?
MSD: Well, at times you feel a bit tired but again what important is that you can push you physical aspects and your body. Unless you are mentally tired I don't think you really need a break. And also even though I am tired I am not really in a position where I could have taken a break, with most of our senior players missing because of injuries or some other thing that happened. So if the senior players are there to play in the next series, then if you take a break then it's fair enough. If you see the last few series that we have played, we missed most of our senior players. So we have to see the kind of strength that the team has and if the team needs me most right now I don’t mind playing a few more series before taking a break.