Indian Premier League 2022: MS Dhoni gets his timing right one last time

If Chennai Super Kings is a movie then MS Dhoni is the screenwriter, director, main character with a fine producer in N Srinivasan, who implicitly believed in his husband’s vision. But after 14 years, for the first time, the word captain will no longer be associated with Dhoni as he relinquished his leadership duties at a sporting entity 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 that it should be respected.

It couldn’t be more accurate as cricket historians writing stories about IPL and art of T20 captaincy will have two distinct eras in a decade — ‘BD’ and ‘AD’ – before Dhoni and After Dhoni.

The only time Dhoni was seen wet-eyed 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 very own ‘Thala’, who can never go wrong. He is a captain of their souls, they believe he is ‘Invictus’ (Invincible) and why not? No IPL franchise has been part of nine IPL finals in 12 editions (remember they have been suspended twice).

His art of captaincy is based on two basic traits: common sense and instinct. The common sense was never to overcomplicate games of T20 cricket while keeping a template and consistent set up in order.

The instinct part came with a clear idea of ​​which player can fill specific roles and what is it that he is looking for in them? Lots of guts and a bit of game feeling. He never relied on analytics, long and tortuous team meetings, “team catalyst,” baseball coach as a powerhouse, and fancy terms.

So he relied on proven international players and adapted a few himself. Be it Dwayne Bravo or Faf du Plessis, or Josh Hazlewood or the likes of 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 can get wickets in Powerplay and Shardul Thakur is a utility man. He understood that Moeen Ali could get sixes on a slow track and that the fast breaks will sometimes be helpful. If CSK was madness, Dhoni was his method.

If Dhoni had wanted to continue, he would have done so this year and no one would have even bothered.

But that’s exactly where Dhoni is different. The case of perfect foresight.

CSK management (read N Srinivasan) still wouldn’t have minded if Dhoni had been ready to lead the ‘Canary Yellows’ for the 191st time in competition and not worry about his batting form which has been going on for at least six years. is now declining.

But that’s what makes MSD special. For him, nothing is more important than the importance of CSK and the decision is made from a more pragmatic rather than an emotional point of view.

There are a few things you need to be crystal clear about, even if the captaincy is handed over to Ravindra Jadeja, who has never captained Saurashtra at the Ranji level before.

Dhoni leaves the “captaincy”, but does not give up the role of “leadership” for once. The nomination will belong to Jadeja as he is ready for the role, but the brain and baton will still be with the man from Jharkhand with ‘salt and pepper sideburns’.

So why did Dhoni decide to retire two days before CSK’s first game, when no one was complaining whether he would remain in the lead for another year? Months before his 41st birthday, he may have realized that it is not possible to play IPL to IPL with nothing between 14 to 16 intensive T20 games per year.

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

He must have realized he might not be in top shape to play all the games this time around and so the grooming part should start now.

The logic is simple, if Dhoni doesn’t play all the games, it’s better they choose another leader.

This natural progression of leadership would have characterized Suresh Raina had he not completely lost his form and hence the next most reliable Lieutenant Jadeja is entrusted with the task while Dhoni is still an active player.

In this season where Dhoni takes periodic breaks, Rayudu is expected to keep wickets.

The 114 runs he scored in 16 IPL appearances for CSK last season is an indicator that as Raina and Rayudu are not getting any younger either, Dhoni should be looking at options next season.

He will help Jadeja get into the role. He becomes that ‘Player-Manager’ where ‘Manager’ takes precedence over ‘Player’.

If we are to believe the sources, CSK had polled for a current young star from India to join a double captaincy alongside Dhoni, but the talks did not come to an end.

This time, Dhoni will be in the backseat for a bit, but even with Jadeja at the helm, the steering will still largely be in Dhoni’s hands.

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