dhoni: MS Dhoni: Gets his timing right one last time

If Chennai Super Kings is a movie, MS Dhoni is its screenwriter, director, main protagonist, a fine producer in N Srinivasan, who believed in his man’s vision.

But 14 years later, for the first time, the word captain would not be associated with Dhoni as he relinquished leadership duties with a sports unit that had become part of his identity.

CSK CEO Kasi Viswanathan has told everyone in the media that it was Dhoni’s own decision and everyone should respect it.

This could not be more accurate as cricket historians are curating stories on the art of IPL and T20 captaincy, a decade from now there will be two distinct eras — ‘BD’ and ‘AD’ – before Dhoni and After Dhoni.

The only chance I got to see Dhoni with moist eyes at a public gathering was in 2018 when CSK made a comeback in the IPL. Boy, was he emotional and the connection was visible.

It is Chennai’s own ‘Thala’, which can never go wrong. He is the captain of their spirit, they believe he is the ‘Invictus’ (the winner) and why not? No IPL franchise has been a part of nine IPL finals in 12 editions (remember, they were suspended twice).

His art of captaincy is based on two basic traits – common sense and instinct. Trivia was about never making the game of T20 cricket too complicated, while setting a blueprint and having consistent set-ups in the sequence.

Part of the instinct came with a clear idea of ​​what specific roles the player could play and what it was that he was looking for in them.

Lots of guts and some amount of game sense. He never relied on analytics, long and winding team meetings, ‘team catalysts’, power hitters on baseball coaches, and fancy terms.

So he relied on tried and tested international players and adapted some domestic players.

Be it Dwayne Bravo or Faf du Plessis, or Josh Hazlewood or the likes of Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Jadeja or Ruturaj Gaekwad, they were picked on the basis of specific roles they could play year after year.

He understood that Deepak Chahar can take wickets in the powerplay and Shardul Thakur is the utility man. He understood that Moeen Ali could hit sixes on a slow pitch and at times a fast off break would be helpful. If CSK was madness, Dhoni was his way.

Had Dhoni had to continue, he would have done so this year as well and nobody would have bothered.

But Dhoni is completely different. A matter of true foresight. The CSK management (read N Srinivasan) still wouldn’t mind if Dhoni were set to lead the ‘Canary Yellow’ for the 191st time in the league and not worry about his batting form which has been poor for at least six years . Now.

But that’s what makes MSD special. For him, CSK’s interest and judgment are more important than a more practical place rather than an emotional one.

There are a few things that need to be clarified about even the captaincy being handed over to Ravindra Jadeja, who has never even captained Saurashtra at the Ranji level.

Dhoni is leaving the “captain” but not the “leadership” role for once. The post will belong to Jadeja as he has been roped in for the role but the mind and the stick will still be held by the ‘salt and pepper sideburn’ guy from Jharkhand.

So why did Dhoni decide to step down two days before CSK’s first match when no one was complaining whether he would lead the team for one more year?

A few months before his 41st birthday, he might have realized that it is not possible to play IPL from IPL with nothing between 14 to 16 high-intensity T20 games a year.

His routine during the IPL of 2020 and 2021 is to reach Chennai (this time it was Surat) at least six weeks before the start of the IPL and do hard intense training with nets and fitness.

He must have realized that he may not be in peak physical condition to play all the games this time around and therefore needs to start grooming now.

The logic is simple, if Dhoni is not playing all the games, it is better to choose a different leader.

This natural progression of leadership would have shown Suresh Raina that he had not completely lost form and hence the next most trusted lieutenant Jadeja being assigned the duty along with Dhoni as an active player.

This season, when Dhoni takes breaks from time to time, it is expected that Rayudu will do the wicketkeeping.

The 114 runs he scored in 16 IPL matches for CSK last season is an indicator that even Raina and Rayudu are not getting any youngsters, Dhoni needs to look at options during the upcoming season.

He will help ease Jadeja’s role. That would be the ‘player-manager’, with the ‘manager’ taking precedence over the ‘player’.

If sources are to be believed, CSK had voiced a current young India star to be part of the dual captaincy structure with Dhoni, but the talks did not reach their conclusion.

This time around, Dhoni will step back a bit, but even under Jadeja’s leadership, the steering will still be largely in Dhoni’s hands.

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