MS Dhoni is always cool as a cucumber. His expressions betray nothing. In the heat of battle, whether it was in his time as India captain or as skipper of the Chennai Super Kings, you could never tell what was going on in his mind.
There have been the occasional one-liners, directed at certain players who were slow on the field, slow to react to the ball or failed to cut down sharp singles. Bowlers have been admonished for erring in line repeatedly but lately, Dhoni, always cool and unflappable under pressure, has been seen to lose his temper.
On the tour of South Africa, the world was shocked when Dhoni rebuked Manish Pandey for not remaining aware to a possible run during a T20I. And now, as CSK dream of winning the IPL for a record third time, Captain Cool has often shown signs of losing his patience with shoddy work on the field: from his bowlers and fielders.
Throughout IPL 2018, Dhoni has been conceded fielding his not his team’s strongest suit. The batsmen have delivered: Ambati Rayudu, Shane Watson, Dhoni himself and his trusted lieutenant Raina have all been among the runs.
The few defeats this season could well be attributed to poor bowling and poor fielding. In fact, Dhoni, the perfectionist, was sometimes not impressed with either the bowlers nor the fielders even after winning games. He wanted them to pull up their socks and execute their plans better.
During the defeat to Rajasthan Royals, Dhoni was visibly furious. He was annoyed with the bowlers hitting the wrong lengths, he was annoyed because they were not bowling to their fields. He was so angry he even threw the ball down in disgust after taking a catch behind the wickets.
Raina, who knows Dhoni better than most in the Indian cricket fraternity, said his skipper wanted to minimise these errors ahead of the play-offs. His goal is to win the IPL this year, after spending two seasons away due to suspension.
Mostly cool on the field and always seen with a ready smile off it, what really makes Dhoni angry is when bowlers make the same mistakes over and over again.
“The bowlers are always told what plans they need to execute in the middle. As a professional cricketer, you need to know all that,” Raina told Indiatoday.in.
“I know what I need to do out on the field but getting advise from the captain, especially for the bowlers…. If they are not hitting the right lengths and if they are giving away extra runs repeatedly.. those things can make you extra annoyed.
“That’s why he keeps telling them ‘you need to improve your game’. He has mentioned that again and again in press conferences. He is expecting a lot from them (the bowlers). The next step is play-offs and you cannot make any mistakes there.
“The moment you make a mistake in the play-offs, you are out of the tournament. That’s why he wants to correct all these mistakes so that when the moment arrives, you do not make a mistake there,” he said.
As of now, CSK and Sunrisers Hyderabad are the only two teams to make it to the play-offs. Dhoni had said he wasn’t going to be happy with just a top-four finish, he wanted to win the IPL. There can be no room for error as his team enters the business-end of what has been an emotional return to the league.
Dhoni played for a different franchisee in 2016 and 2017 but he never looked like the leader he was for CSK. Last season, he was sacked as captain and replaced by an Australian, who then took RPS to the final.
This year, Dhoni is determined to show who the real boss of the IPL is. He is determined to win the title for the Super Kings and he will not tolerate any mistakes along the way.