How the leadership of MS Dhoni has built a talent-driven team


MS Dhoni is the most successful Indian cricket captain in the one-day and Test match format. A small-town boy with self-learnt wicket keeping and batting style has won the highest laurels for the Indian team: number 1 ranking Test team for 18 months starting December 2009; One-Day World Cup in 2011, World Twenty20 championship in 2007 and ICC Champions Trophy in 2013. Dhoni has also become the highest-earning cricketer and was ranked the 16th highest earning athlete worldwide in 2013 by Forbes.

Dhoni’s leadership has been celebrated and analyzed by management gurus, HR professionals as well as cricket pundits. He has been called “Captain Cool”; revered by cricket legends and followed by the young guns of Indian cricket.

What is the magic behind Dhoni’s success? Is there a science or has he been just lucky? Here are few things that have worked behind the scene in creating an amazingly talented team:

1. Pipeline of talent

Under Dhoni’s captaincy, there has been a fair degree of experimentation in blooding young talent. He and the selectors have shown imagination and risk-taking ability in giving opportunities to young players, sometimes ahead of time. Players like Ravindra Jadeja, Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, R Ashwin found mainstage at a younger age, brimming to prove themselves.

2. Supreme confidence: It’s all about the attitude

Dhoni exudes supreme confidence on the field and that rubs off on the young turks of the team. They have tremendous self-confidence and the belief that they can be world-beaters. It reflects in the chemistry of the team and body language.

3. Transition management

Many stalwarts of Indian cricket transitioned out in recent years. They were all-time greats and there was a possibility the team could have slumped with the loss, on the other hand, it was ensured that the knowledge, stability and expertise of elders was passed onto the youngsters.

4. Leveraging experience

Dhoni learnt from the experience that was at hand available to him within the team in the form of greats such as Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly. He showed tremendous respect and humility and drew on the experience of great players and focused on building younger players.

5. Calm under pressure

Dhoni exudes legendary calm, almost without emotions, even in extremely tough circumstances. Only the spark in his eyes gives away his sharp and calculating mind on the field as he surveys the field from behind the stumps and plots his next move. His success has been attributed to an ability to remain insulated from external environment.

6. Tactical brilliance

Dhoni is adept at mastering the changing situations at play and adjusting his tactics to come out on top. Whether it is bowling changes, field placements, batting order shuffles or encouraging his players, he displays tactical brilliance in an unassuming manner.

7. Team over individual

Dhoni’s statements reveal that he has consciously built the culture of team over individual. Speaking about specific wins, he always emhpasizes the contribution of the team and sometimes lesser celebrated factors.

8. Priority for Fitness

Under Dhoni and the coaches of Indian cricket team, physical fitness and overall athleticism has been given due emphasis. This has ensured that it is not just performance on a specific day that counts but the overall capability of the team is enhanced.

9. Knows his team’s strengths well

Dhoni knows the strengths of his team well. He is insightful about specific skills of his team and is willing to take calculated risks. he manages them in a way that they rise to the occasion when called upon.

10. Leads from the front

Dhoni has given some sublime match-winning performances over the years and this has helped to build his personal credibility among gifted players. He has built the reputation as a “finisher” by closing and turning around many matches. He has also shown the ability to rise to the big occasion and has reserved his best for the biggest moments.

SharadSharad Verma is the head of Talent Engagement and Development for SunGard Global Technology, supporting more than 3,000 employees in the company’s Global Solution Centers in India, Shanghai and Tunisia. A post graduate from the prestigious XLRI, Sharad has served as Head of HR for Berkadia (a subsidiary of Berkashire Hathaway),, and BNY Mellon. Read his blog here. Connect with him on LinkedInFacebook and on twitter at@iSharad.



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