If Chennai Super Kings is a movie, then MS Dhoni is his screenwriter, director, main character with a good producer in N Srinivasan, who implicitly believed in his husband’s vision. But after 14 years, the word captain will not be associated with Dhoni for the first time, as he has given up leadership duties at a sports entity that has become part of his identity. Kasi Viswanathan, CEO of CSK, told everyone in the media that it was Dhoni’s own decision and one must respect it.
This could not be more accurate, as cricket historians compiling stories on IPL and art of T20 captaincy will have two different periods from now on — ‘BD’ and ‘AD’ – Before Dhoni and after Dhoni .
The only time one saw Dhoni with damp eyes in a public gathering was in 2018 when CSK made a comeback in the IPL. Boy, he was emotional and the connection was visible. He is Chennai’s own ‘Thala’, who can never go wrong. He is a captain of their soul, they believe he is ‘Invictus’ (Invincible) and why not? No IPL franchise was part of nine IPL finals in 12 issues (Remember, they were suspended twice).
His art of captaincy is based on two basic qualities – common sense and instinct. The common sense was about never complicating T20 cricket games while putting together a template and consistent setup.
The instinct part came with a clear idea of which player can play specific roles and what is it that he is looking for in it? Very daring and a bit of playfulness. He never relied on analyzes, long and tortuous team meetings, ‘team catalyst’, baseball coach as a power hit and fancy terms.
Therefore, he relied on proven international players and adapted some homemade ones. Whether it’s Dwayne Bravo or Faf du Plessis, or Josh Hazlewood or people like Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Jadeja or Ruturaj Gaikwad, they were chosen based on specific roles they could play year after year.
He understood that Deepak Chahar could get wickets in Powerplay and Shardul Thakur is a handyman. He understood Moeen Ali could hit sixes on slow track and the quick breaks would sometimes be helpful. If CSK was madness, Dhoni was his method.
Had Dhoni wanted to continue, he would have done so even this year and no one would have even bothered about it.
But this is exactly where Dhoni is different. The case of perfect foresight.
CSK management (read N Srinivasan) would still not care if Dhoni was ready to lead the ‘Canary Yellows’ for the 191st time in the league and not worry about his batting form declining for at least six years not. now.
But that’s what makes MSD special. For him, there is nothing more important than CSK’s interest and the decision is made from a more pragmatic space rather than an emotional one.
There are a few things about which one should be crystal clear, even if the captaincy is handed over to Ravindra Jadeja, who has never even been captain for Saurashtra at Ranji level.
Dhoni leaves “captaincy” but does not give up a “leadership” role for once. The name will belong to Jadeja as he was cared for for the role, but the brain and the baton will still be with Jharkhand’s man with ‘salt-and-pepper sideburns’.
So why did Dhoni decide to quit two days before CSK’s first match when no one complained if he would lead the team for another year? Months ashamed of his 41st birthday, perhaps he realized that it is not possible to play IPL to IPL with nothing between the 14 to 16 high intensity T20 matches annually.
His routine during the 2020 and 2021 IPL is to arrive in Chennai at least six weeks before the start of IPL (this time it was Surat) and do hard intense exercise with nets and fitness.
He should have realized that he might just not be in peak physical condition to play all matches this time and therefore the grooming section should start now.
The logic is simple, if Dhoni does not play all games, it is better that they choose another leader.
This natural advancement of leadership would have had Suresh Raina if he had not completely lost form and therefore the next most trusted lieutenant Jadeja is entrusted with the duty with Dhoni still being an active player.
In this season when Dhoni takes periodic breaks, Rayudu is expected to hold wickets.
The 114 runs he scored in 16 IPL games for CSK last season is an indication that with Raina and Rayudu also not getting younger, Dhoni will have to look at options during the coming season.
He will help Jadeja take on the role. He will be that ‘player manager’ with ‘manager’ who will take precedence over ‘player’.
If sources are to be believed, CSK named a current young Indian star to be with Dhoni as part of the dual captaincy structure, but the talks did not come to an end.
This time, Dhoni will be sitting a little behind, but even with Jadeja at the helm, the steering will still be very much in Dhoni’s hands.
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