MS Dhoni may have signed international commitments, but he will be at the center of the action in the Indian Premier League (IPL) – a tournament he has helped inspire and where he remains a towering figure. MS Dhoni, who has led the Chennai Super Kings to three titles and five second-place finishes in the 12 editions of the IPL, will appear in the opening game on Saturday against the defending champions Mumbai Indians. The match comes more than a year after the 39-year-old last played for India in their semi-final loss to New Zealand at the 2019 World Cup.
After much speculation, the wicket-keeper-batsman finally announced the end of his 16-year international career last month.
And without the pressure of having to play well to keep his place on the national team, the flamboyant Dhoni is expected to shine in the UAE, the temporary home of the IPL as India battles a rampant coronavirus problem.
“He is very fit and I think he is working very hard on it. Moreover, he has stopped playing international cricket so that his body is less stressed,” Saba Karim, another former wicket-keeper in India, told AFP.
“Global cricket still needs an icon like MS Dhoni to continue.”
“Dhoni was instrumental in starting the IPL because of the way he added another dimension to the shorter format of the game due to his aggressive side with the willow tree,” said Karim.
“Also with his calm appearance behind the stumps.”
Once hailed as the world‘s best finisher, Dhoni has played 190 IPL matches and scored 4,432 runs, including 23 half centuries.
An exemplary leader in fast gloves, Dhoni has made Chennai one of IPL’s most beloved franchises with nearly 200,000 people following the team’s fan club on Twitter.
‘Soul of Chennai’
Kasi Viswanathan, CEO of Chennai, says Dhoni remains key to the team’s plans and they expect him to continue playing until the 2022 edition.
The team has come under scrutiny after arriving in the UAE last month with two players who tested positive for the coronavirus.
Senior batsman Suresh Raina and veteran spinner Harbhajan Singh later joined the competition.
“I swear if Dhoni withdraws from IPL there will be no IPL for me this year!” wrote a Twitter user after the shootings.
Cricketer and commentator Aakash Chopra said Dhoni is “the greatest strength of the team and the entire franchise depends on him”.
“He’s the soul of Chennai Super Kings. As long as he’s there, the heart of CSK keeps beating and they move forward. MS Dhoni, the player and captain, has had a big impact,” Chopra said on his YouTube show.
“Dhoni is back in charge of the stick as captain, as batsman.”
Chennai and Dhoni got into controversy in 2015, when the team was banned from the IPL for two years for match fixing.
But Dhoni and his team – including many over 35 players, including Australian Shane Watson and South African Imran Tahir – came back with a bang.
Chennai, labeled as ‘Dad’s Army’ by the media, returned to lift the title in 2018 and establish itself as one of the most consistent teams in IPL history.
“Dhoni is Chennai, Chennai is Dhoni. Dhoni is doing well. Chennai is doing well,” said veteran commentator Harsha Bhogle on Cricbuzz.com.
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