Mohit Sharma, who was a Purple Cap winner in 2014 IPL, had a very rewarding tenure in Chennai Super Kings. Image Credit: Delhi Capitals

New Delhi: Mohit Sharma, the highest wicket-taker in Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2014 for Chennai Super Kings, feels he still owes a lot to Mahendra Singh Dhoni - under whom he has played most of his cricket in the league as well as in India colours.

‘‘In sport, there’s a difference between a captain and a leader – I believe he’s a true leader. When the team wins, you’ll never find him (Dhoni) anywhere prominently but when the team loses, he’s always right in front, taking responsibility – that’s the sign of a leader and why I admire him so much,” said the 31-year-old fast bowler from Punjab, who has been roped in by Delhi Capitals this year.

Speaking in a Instagram live session on this new franchise’s official handle, Sharma dwelt on a range of subjects - be it Dhoni or the strong Indian core in the current Delhi team which he feels can win their maiden IPL crown if the event is held this year. ‘‘I feel blessed that I got to play almost 70-80% of my cricket under MS Dhoni, whether it was for India or for CSK. His humility and sense of gratitude is what sets him apart from other players I have played with,’’ said Sharma.

Asked how comfortable he would be if the International Cricket Council (ICC) eventally legalises tall-tampering and make the use of saliva on the ball a no-no, the experienced pacer says: “It will be interesting to see what decision is made. Every bowler has their personal choices in this matter. I don’t use a lot of saliva for shining the ball, in fact, these days umpires don’t let bowlers use too much saliva. I would be okay with using sweat as well to shine the ball.”

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, according to Mohit Sharma, always stayed at the forefront during his team's bad phase. Image Credit: AP

The use of saliva, a legal tool for the new ball bowler to retain the shine on the ball so far, is becoming a contentious issue in cricket in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic as the highly contagious virus apparently spreads from the droplets of human beings.

Speaking on his inclusion to the Delhi side for this season’s auction, Sharma was full of gratitude for the team management. “I was at the NCA (National Cricket Academy) in Bengaluru when the IPL apacemanuctions were taking place. I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to play the IPL this season because of the back surgery that and almost all franchises knew I wasn’t that fit. However, it was the Delhi Capitals who picked me up in the second round and it felt really good. I realised this was my opportunity and I couldn’t wait to be back on the field, and perform for the franchise that showed faith in me.

‘‘I decided to come to Delhi to do some sessions with our Head Talent Scout, Vijay Dahiya, before the start of the season. I wanted to ensure I was 100% ready by the time we had to report for the team’s final camp, but we ended up with this lockdown situation eventually.”

Battling the restrictions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sharma said he is trying to follow a fitness routine. “I think cricketers have such hectic calendars now and the travel schedules are such that this kind of an extended break is almost unbelievable. But staying in is the need of the hour, and even though I truly miss cricket, there is not much you can do apart from maintaining your fitness. I ensure that I’m training for five days in a week and try to focus on recovery in the other two days. It is really important to maintain a good routine,” he said.

“I’ve also been out of the game for 8-10 months due to a back injury that I had sustained. It was an injury that was constantly troubling me for the past two years, so I finally decided to get myself operated, and after completing the rehab in the past three months, I was really looking forward to playing for the Delhi Capitals this season,” he added.