NEW DELHI: Mahendra Singh Dhoni still feels shy to speak to his idol Sachin Tendulkar off the field but says his honest opinions on a cricket field about team strategy, including occasional differences of opinions with the veteran, might have landed him the India captaincy in 2007.
Dhoni said he used to have on-field discussion with Tendulkar on team strategy and 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 field, I always give my honest inputs about team strategy," Dhoni said.
"Tendulkar and I used to discuss team strategy on the field. If I am convinced I would even disagree with him and it happened quiet often. I think my honesty has 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.
"Even if I was not made the captain, it was a huge thing that Tendulkar had recommended my name for captaincy," the Indian captain said at the launch of a book titled 'Tendulkar: the Cricketer of the Century' written by New Delhi-based journalist Vimal Kumar.
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 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 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 conversation 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 Rahul (Dravid) bhai 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 for Tendulkar's 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 Rahul bhai, or Anil bhai or Lachchu bhai (VVS 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 Tendulkar '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.
Dhoni said the 200 not out in the 2011 Gwalior ODI against South Africa was the best innings he had seen of Tendulkar.
"I was at the other end at the crease when Tendulkar made that double hundred and I think that was his best innings I had seen," he said.
Known as somebody who is difficult to be reached even by his team-mates via call or SMS, Dhoni said that it would be difficult to maintain friendship with Tendulkar after retirement.
"It's a difficult question. As I said it is still difficult to speak up to him outside a cricket field. So, it will be difficult to remain as friends with Tendulkar after retirement.
"May be I can speak to him about cars or bikes," he said in a lighter vein.
Asked what he would do after retirement, Dhoni, who was made honorary Lieutenant Colonel of the Indian Army in 2011, said he would want to spend time with the force at forward post in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast.
"I would like to spend time at forward posts of the Indian Army in J & K and the Northeast also. Last time I had spent some time at some forward posts in J & K but did not have much time," he said.
"I can't become a television commentator. I would not be able to remember all those statistics and will have problems in matters relating to techniques," he added.
Asked about his relationship with scribes, Dhoni said, "I would not say I love you (journalists) all but I also don't hate any one of you.
"There is no love-hate relationship with you people. I never hated you guys," he added.