Former Indian World Cup-winning captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni needs no introduction to any cricket viewer. Dhoni has a rich legacy of leading his national team to two world cup titles and a Champions trophy victory before hanging his boots in 2020. Since then, Indian Premier League has been the only competitive platform where Dhoni has played. Popularly known as Captain Cool, Dhoni has been one of the most successful captains in the IPL as well winning four titles for Chennai Super Kings and leading them to another five finals.
Dhoni is captaining the Chennai-based franchise in a successful IPL campaign so far. However, speculations are pretty rife that this is going to be the last IPL season for the 41 years old Dhoni as a player and he may retire after sixteen brilliant years of bossing the tournament. MS Dhoni retiring from IPL will be a very emotional moment for his fans who are spread across the globe. However, the news of Dhoni retiring from professional cricket altogether is an anticipated one and has been floating ever since he called it quits from international cricket.
“Last Phase of my career”
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is unarguably one of the biggest brands in Indian cricket. Not just the laurels he brought to his teams with his unmatchable captaincy but his role as a finisher has always caught the spotlight. Dhoni debuted for India in 2004 against Bangladesh and since then, he has carved a niche for himself among all-time cricketing giants. In a career spanning over 20 years, MS Dhoni has seen many highs and lows in his cricketing form but something that distinguishes him from the others is his composure and cool-headed temperament even in the most challenging situations. Perhaps that is the reason, he has won his team so many games from the cusp of defeats. IPL itself has witnessed so many Dhoni special finishes.
The eyes of Dhoni fans lit up in the very first game of IPL 2023 where MS Dhoni scored a six and a boundary in the last over against Gujarat Titans, hinting that he is in some good batting form. The hype only got more in the second game of Chennai Super Kings where Dhoni hit two consecutive sixes off Mark Wood against Lucknow Supergiants. He has been the biggest crowd-puller in this IPL season so far. Chennai Super Kings is already the most followed IPL franchise because of Dhoni’s popularity.
Even in the away games for Chennai Super Kings in Bengaluru, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, and Jaipur, more fans were spotted in the yellow CSK jersey than the supporters of home teams. The digital viewership statistics for IPL 2023 confirm the same where the highest number of users (approximately 2.2 crores) clocked in during the last over of the game between Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals when Dhoni almost got his team home from a nearly improbable situation. Of the top 6 viewership records, 3 were created while Dhoni was batting, such is his stardom.
However, it is starting to seem obvious from his post-match presentation answers that IPL 2023 may be the last season for him to play in the yellow jersey. After defeating Sunrisers Hyderabad at Chepauk, Dhoni said that he is enjoying more as this is the last phase of his career. Furthermore, after the match against Kolkata Knight Riders in Kolkata, MS Dhoni mentioned that fans turned up more in yellow jerseys to cheer for him because they wanted to see him play at the Eden Garden for the last time. Even after the last game for Chennai against Rajasthan in Jaipur, captain cool said that fans will be chasing him everywhere this season, hinting that it is going to be his last.
Will MS Dhoni end his journey with a trophy?
When MS Dhoni was appointed as the captain of the Indian national team in 2007, everyone was perplexed but soon enough, millions became his fans when he led India to the trophy in the inaugural season of the T20 World Cup in South Africa. That was the first-ever assignment for MS Dhoni – the captain. Now that he is in the final part of his cricketing journey as a player and a captain, his fans would be hoping that Dhoni ends it with another trophy, this time IPL 2023 title for the Chennai Super Kings.
Currently, CSK is placed in the fourth position on the points table with five victories and three losses. The batsmen have come all guns blazing for the men in yellow so far with them posting 200+ totals in three of the four games they batted first. In the bowling department, the spin trio of Ravindra Jadeja, Moeen Ali, and Mahesh Theekshana have been consistently picking up wickets, and the inexperienced pace attack of Tushar Deshpande, Aakash Singh, and Matheesha Pathirana has also done fairly well.
Overall, CSK looks in good shape for the playoffs as different players are contributing and they don’t have to rely on a couple of names. Batting against spinners has been a slightly weaker area for Chennai and something that can be exploited in the second half of the tournament apart from the injury scares haunting them since the start of the season. But captain cool MS Dhoni is well-known for extracting the best from limited resources and CSK is one of the top contenders for the trophy this season given how they have played so far.
The Chepauk stadium in Chennai is the venue for the eliminator and the second qualifier games for IPL 2023. So, if Chennai makes it to the playoffs, it will be a fitting adieu to the cricketing journey of a legend of the sport.