Pragyan Ojha was a crucial weapon for MS Dhoni the captain, particularly in Tests in the subcontinent. The left-arm spinner picked up 113 wickets from 24 Tests, forming a spin pair with R Ashwin.
In this interview with Cricketnext, Ojha recalled his journey with Dhoni, who announced his retirement from international cricket on Saturday.
First memory of Dhoni
I can clearly recall when I met Dhoni first time. Before India's A tour of Kenya and Zimbabwe, we were in NCA for an under-19 camp. That was the first time Dhoni got picked in the India A side. He got runs and got picked for Indian team.
We played a match - Under 19 vs India A. A practice match for the A team before they left for the tour. He had long hair and would speak very less. I was there, Manoj Tiwary was there. We had a very little interaction.
Second time, we met during Deccan Chargers' match against CSK in Chennai in 2008. I got his wicket, but that's not the main story. After the game, we have a get together. I met him and spoke to him, but we never spoke about cricket. We spoke about bikes. Everybody loves sports bikes or cars. He was into bikes, me and Rohit (Sharma) took his bike out for a ride in Chennai.
Dhoni, the bowlers' captain
After that I got into the Indian team, and by far he is one of the best captains I've played under because I always believe that a captain has to be a bowler's captain. This is a batsman oriented game, so the captain plays a very crucial role, always backing you and giving you confidence. The bowler wins you games.
It was very simple - he used to talk to you before the game starts, and would exactly understand the situation because he was also a wicketkeeper. He was always there next to the batsman and watching the pitch, analysing conditions much better than other captains. He would always guide us - you would have heard on the stump mic of him giving us subtle suggestions.
It's not like he will talk to you for hours, he will give you small inputs and you have to be intelligent enough to understand what he's trying to tell.
One game in Bangalore, we were walking into the ground and he suddenly threw the new ball to me. That shows two things - he trusts your ability and he wants you to deliver in all situations. He would encourage that. When your captain trusts you like that, you give your best.
On Dhoni's handling of spinners
If you speak to Kuldeep/Chahal, they would tell you he would never tell you straightaway. He would give a clue and you have to read between the lines. He wants you to be intelligent, he is not spoon-feeding you. You have to explore on your own.
Very rarely he would come for bowlers' meeting unless he was asked by the bowling coach. They have a core meeting of the coaches and captain, so they might have had a broad approach. He would convey his thoughts to the bowlers via the bowling coach. On the ground he would take control.
I'm assuming it, because he very rarely discussed cricket after the game is over. Maybe at times after practice, if he felt he needed to say something. But most of the times it was in the ground during the match. In the very moment, he would say I feel this, do this. And if you're doing well, he would never disturb you, he would just play around with the fields.
Best moment with Dhoni
The best moment with Dhoni was when we were playing against England, MS Dhoni said - 'Ojha, iski Ghanti baja dhe' - to Ian Bell. That was hilarious, in a tense moment when you're focusing hard and he's trying to calm things down. It was his way of playing cricket - very humorous and witty, without insulting anyone.
Dhoni, the man on national duty
What I really learnt from him and respect him for is that it was always national duty. When he's playing for the country, everything else will take a backseat. He would always compare himself with the Army or Air Force or the service men. He used to believe that. When you're wearing that jersey or the cap, it's your duty to give 100%. In sport, even the best of the best can lose. But what matters is you giving 100%.
MS Dhoni off the field
As Virat (Kohli) said, everyone retires at some point of time. When someone you know so closely has retired, you feel for it. Someone like him, he deserves that.
We always had a personal relationship. Recently, a couple of years ago when he was playing for Rising Pune Supergiant, he was playing in Hyderabad. We had shifted to our new house and I asked him to come home if he had the time. He came home, and the best part is he is very simple.
I asked him what do you want to have, he said Biryani. The special thing was - he said don't get today's biryani, get yesterday's! That will taste better. He loves his tea. He wanted to have typical Hyderabad biryani tea. He spent half a day with me and my family. Someone like him coming home is a special thing.
People like MS Dhoni, Sachin Paaji, Sourav Ganguly, Kapil paaji... they're very rare. Even though we've played a lot of cricket with them, it's always a fan moment for all of us.