Chennai: Australia's former star batsman Matthew Hayden has used a variety of superlatives to describe Mahendra Singh Dhoni, calling him an "era of cricket" and "almost like a leader of a nation".
The big-hitting ex-opener eulogised the two-time World Cup-winning skipper hours ahead of the IPL final between Dhoni's Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Mumbai Indians (MI), both eyeing a record fourth title.
"You know Dhoni, he is not just a player, he is an era of cricket. In many ways, I think MS is like the captain of the gully cricket team, he is one of us, he will do anything," Hayden said on Star Sports' special programme for CSK — The Super Kings Show.
The Australian added, "You see how he warms up, he bowls his leg-spinners, he catches, he asks players and people around the squad on how they are doing and he is so relaxed, I think we can all relate to him because we all have busy lives working around with friends and families and that's a big commitment.
"So, someone like that at the helm will make you feel calm, will make you feel relaxed and that's why Thala Dhoni that word 'Thala', obviously meaning the leader of Chennai, but you it's almost like leader of a nation."
Both Hayden and Dhoni had faced off while representing their respective national teams, with the Australian playing under the seasoned keeper-batsman at CSK.
With an average of 103.5, the Chennai skipper is so far the leading run-scorer for his side after accumulating 414 runs from 11 innings in the ongoing Indian Premier League.
His side was second in the league points-table with nine wins from 14 games. CSK lost to Mumbai Indians in the first Qualifier at home but later defeated Delhi Capitals by six wickets in the second qualifier to enter their eighth IPL final.