Mahendra Singh Dhoni says he still feels shy to speak to his idol Sachin Tendulkar off the field, but his honest opinion on team strategy on the cricket field, including the occasional difference with the batting icon, must have landed him the India captaincy in 2007.
On Wednesday, Dhoni revealed he used to have on-field discussions with Tendulkar on team strategy but would not mind disagreeing with his senior colleague even before he was made captain.
"Tendulkar is my sporting hero, and because of the aura he carries I still have difficulties speaking up to him outside a cricket field.
"But on the field I always give my honest inputs about team strategy," said Dhoni, at the launch of a book titled Tendulkar: the Cricketer of the Century, written by New Delhi-based journalist Vimal Kumar.
"Tendulkar and I used to discuss team strategy on the field. If I was convinced I would even disagree with him, and it happened quiet often.
"I think my honesty paid dividends when he recommended me for captaincy. He might be thinking that I have learnt in quick time on different aspects of the game and team strategy," he said, adding, "Even if I was not made the captain, it was a huge thing that Tendulkar recommended my name for captaincy."
Dhoni revealed that when he met Tendulkar for the first time, more than 10 years back, he could not speak to him, but ended up serving the veteran batsman drinks on the field.
"I think that was in a Duleep Trophy match in Pune in 2000-01 or 2001-02 season. I was in the East Zone squad and was carrying drinks. Tendulkar made 199 in that match and he was batting when I went into the field to serve drinks to my team-mates at the drinks break. Suddenly, he asked me 'can I have a drink also?'
"That was my first meeting with Tendulkar, my idol. I did not speak any word to him and ended serving a drink to him," Dhoni said, during a light-hearted interaction with the audience as Tendulkar left soon after the book was released.
Asked about his first interaction with Tendulkar, Dhoni said, "That was in 2004 December when India toured Bangladesh.
“I first spoke to him, he said, 'Hi How are you?' while welcoming me in the team.
"That tour ended in five days. There was the whole team, Tendulkar was sitting at the middle portion of a long table, Dada (Sourav Ganguly) and Rahulbhai (Dravid) was also there. I was told to make a speech in front of them, standing up on a chair," Dhoni said.
Dhoni said he does not normally watch cricket matches, except when Tendulkar is batting.
"I don't normally watch cricket matches, but if Tendulkar is batting then I have to watch it.
" I remember in the World Cup in Australia (1992), or India's tour in Australia, I told my dad to wake me up at night if Tendulkar comes out to bat," recalled Dhoni.
He said it was difficult to converse with Tendulkar initially while in the Indian team, but became comfortable as time wore on.
"Before bowling (mostly in ODIs) Tendulkar would come up to me and say he would bowl off-spin or leg-spin or seam up. I would say okay at times and at other times would disagree with him. So, the comfort level began and by the time I became captain, I was able to speak to him freely on the field," he said.
"It's the same for the other players, be it Rahulbhai, or Anilbhai or Lachchubhai (V V S Laxman). There is no ego in the team and that is the best thing in Indian cricket," he added.
Asked about the whole team addressing Tendulkar as paaji, Dhoni said maverick pacer S Sreesanth was different as he would address the veteran batsman as bhaiya.
"It was out of respect we call Teandulkar paaji. No doubt it's a Punjabi word and we also call Harbhajan paaji. But Sreesanth would call all other team-mates paaji and address Tendulkar as bhaiya," he said, inviting peels of laughter from the audience.