MSD told me that I must remain funky: Ashwin

MS Dhoni with Ravichandran Ashwin in IPL
MS Dhoni with Ravichandran Ashwin in IPL (PC: X)

Today, MS Dhoni celebrates his 43rdbirthday and his contribution to Indian cricket, especially as a leader, is just next to none.

Ravichandran Ashwin has seen a lot of Dhoni’s career. In the Indian Premier League and as well as a part of the Indian team, they won major tournaments together. In this special episode of Backstage with Boria, while celebrating the off-spinner’s newly written book ‘I HAVE THE STREETS; THE KUTTY STORIES’, Ashwin shares his bond with Dhoni with Boria Majumdar. 

Boria: You and Dhoni had to be a very local Madrasi love affair. Tell me about that.

Ashwin: I think Dhoni, for the first one year, did not know that I existed. I do not think he knew or maybe he knew and he did not really, that’s Dhoni. I have known him for almost 15, 16, 17 years from close quarters and with him, I find what he was in 2008-09 is exactly how he operates in 2024. That is fascinating for me and I remember that game in2010 where he got hit by Shane Bond on his arm, I think at Eden Gardens.

I get a wicket. I get Bond out in that game but he gets hit on his arm and he goes out of the side. But I have begun the IPL reasonably well. This is supposedly going to be my first full year in the IPL and he goes out and Suresh Raina leads the side. I think they have probably slightly different views in terms of how they handle people. I do not bowl inside the Powerplay. I bowl slightly later because Mutthiah Muralitharan and I were playing in the same team and I end up bowling death in Bangalore. I have not had a good time. I have let the team down on three occasions. After that, Dhoni leads. But as soon as he comes back to captain the side, he picks up the puzzle.

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I think he said ‘I want that guy back’. I come back and he again uses me with the new ball because he uses me inside the Powerplay against Adam Gilchrist and I get him out in Chennai. And he uses me again in those same roles and continuously uses me like that for several years to follow. He uses me inside the batting Powerplay, even when I play for India. So, I think that is quite a fascinating sort of a belief that he had and he kept it very simple when he told me things.

He always said, your greatest thing, the greatest strength is to try new things, to be funky. So, do not change that for anybody else. I think I told it in that book launch also. I met him in Dubai after a game between Delhi against CSK and I asked him how you find it. I have developed that back spin. He said, you are always like that. It has been your strength. Remember, you continue to be funky. Remember, you continue to work on your variations. I am like, this is what he told me 15 years ago.

The man continues to see the same thing. And then like after a brief pause, he tells me again, you know what, I know what you are thinking but that is your strength. So, keep being funky, keep expressing yourself. Maybe it is not just the cricket that he sees. He sees the, more sort of a mental strength side of things, or the mental aptitude side of things. And I find that he did that with Tushar Deshpande also for CSK. So, he continues to do that. He continues to pick people who are good in certain roles and fitting them in.

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