Mahendra Singh Dhoni brought the curtains down on the most defining element of his cricket career – captaincy of Chennai Super Kings. He has handed over the leadership duties to Ravindra Jadeja, but will carry on as a player for one more season.
Sources indicated that Dhoni will mentor Jadeja on the field and will take decisions when necessary. “Dhoni’s captaincy magic has made the difference for us in many games. When he is on the field, he will obviously be one of the key decision-makers, even though the official baton will be with Jadeja,” a CSK source told TOI.
Dhoni, who took charge of CSK in 2008, had been a captain of the Indian team for a decade and won all the white-ball ICC events there to be won. But the Jharkhand man’s deep connect with his franchise has probably outshone all his international achievements.
When the team was in exile for two seasons due to match-fixing scandal, and Dhoni was playing for Pune Supergiant, he said time and again that his heart would always be with CSK. It was probably in those two years of absence that Dhoni’s bond with CSK and its fans grew even stronger.
And he kept his word once the team returned to the fold in 2018. Even as his batting faltered, there was never a doubt who would be leading CSK into one of their best phases, winning two titles and losing one on the last ball.
MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja. (BCCI/IPL Photo)
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MS Dhoni knows when it’s time to move on. If it was solely left to him, he might not have played this IPL, but there is the compulsion of mentoring a team in its transition. “He probably feels that for one season it’s necessary to guide the ship from inside the ground,” the source added.
On Thursday, it was as matter of fact as ever when Dhoni announced to the team in the dressing-room that he won’t lead them anymore. There were no extra emotions, no long speech – just an announcement and then the team went into the ground for practice.
📑 Official Statement 📑#WhistlePodu #Yellove 💛🦁 @msdhoni @imjadeja
— Chennai Super Kings (@ChennaiIPL) 1648112704000
“Jadeja was being made a part of decision making this season. Everybody got the impression that he would be groomed for captaincy through the season. There was probably an element of surprise that Dhoni left it altogether but it was kind of inevitable,” the source added.
Jadeja knows the job he has at hand. He might have been hoping that this captaincy would come to him sooner rather than later, but it’s a responsibility that is going to stretch the allrounder to his limits.
Whist7⃣ePodu 💛 Whist8⃣ePodu@msdhoni @imjadeja https://t.co/TtE0tJdwnp
— Chennai Super Kings (@ChennaiIPL) 1648115880000
“Feeling good but at the same time I need to fill in big boots,” said Jadeja in a video shared by Chennai Super Kings on Twitter. “Like Mahi bhai has already set a big legacy and we need to carry it forward, so hopefully I will. And I don’t need to worry too much because he’s here and whatever question I need to ask, I’ll definitely go to him… He was my go to person and he still is today, so I’m not worried too much.”
📹 First reactions from the Man himself!#ThalaivanIrukindran 🦁💛 @imjadeja https://t.co/OqPVIN3utS
— Chennai Super Kings (@ChennaiIPL) 1648122611000
While Dhoni will still continue to be the man taking the tough decisions, it would be interesting to see how he deals with his own batting form. It’s true that it has taken a nose-dive and last year he had managed only 114 runs with a strike-rate of 106.54.
The question popping up now is whether Dhoni wants to sit out a few games here and there if his batting doesn’t click, especially with Kiwi keeper-batsman Devon Conway in the line-up.
But CSK maintain that Dhoni would be playing, even if he comes down the order. One understands that Jadeja and new recruit Shivam Dubey are being seen as the designated finishers while Dhoni is preparing “to bat if necessary”.
Given the depth of the CSK batting, Dhoni may not have to bat regularly, and even if he does late in the innings for about 12 balls, it would be about connecting a couple of big hits towards the end. Dhoni the batter still instils fear in the minds of young bowlers, and the CSK management feels that is enough to make the difference at the deep end of a game.
It has happened so many times since 2008 that CSK fans have lost count. That’s why they call him the ‘Thala‘ and his popularity in Chennai can give Rajinikanth a good run for his money.
Oh Captain, 🦁ur Captain! #ForeverTHA7A 💛 https://t.co/qfH4tNRcVI
— Chennai Super Kings (@ChennaiIPL) 1648119404000
The fans would have loved to see Dhoni riding into the sunset as captain at Chepauk on a triumphant note, but Covid came in the way. But that won’t take anything away from the moments that he has given his fans – the four titles is just a number that validates the legacy of probably the greatest franchise captain in the history of IPL.