Updated: May 13, 2022 8:53:00 am
Mumbai Indians pacer Riley Meredith’s short ball, that turned out to be the last ball of Chennai Super Kings’ innings, had a lot of drama.
MS Dhoni ducked under a bouncer and hared down the pitch at the other end. CSK were nine down and the skipper wanted to keep the strike.
Mukesh Choudhary, 15 years Dhoni’s junior, was slow off the blocks. He was run-out to a direct hit from Ishan Kishan. Dhoni shook his head.
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Even at 40, he was way quicker than a player in his mid-20s. Solely on fitness, Dhoni can play a few more IPLs. His running between the wickets is still a joy to watch.
The last few IPLs have had a Dhoni’s retirement plans subplot. The player dead-bats it. During a recent conversation with The Indian Express, a CSK official spoke about the franchise’s expectations of having their captain as a player next year also. But Dhoni has a mind of his own.
A defeat against Mumbai Indians on Thursday ended CSK’s playoffs hopes and after the game Dhoni spoke about the future, dropping a hint that he would be part of it. “… we have a few positives that we will take into the next season. But what is important is that whatever gaps are there, to try to fill in those gaps so that leakages don’t happen,” he said at the post-match presentation.
Dhoni praised the two young seamers, Choudhary and Simarjeet Singh, and how their steady development would augur well for the team. “The fast bowlers, to have both of them bowling really well is a big positive. Not to forget we will have two more fast bowlers coming into the next season and we have a few more up our sleeves. We just want to give them ample time to prepare for what the IPL holds for them.”
This has been a troubled season for the four-time champions. They lost their most expensive buy, Deepak Chahar, due to a right quadriceps injury followed by a back injury, while Adam Milne and towards the back end of the season, Ravindra Jadeja, too, were ruled out. CSK had a clear succession plan, which saw Jadeja take over the reins before the start of the tournament. But that didn’t go well, both for the team and the all-rounder, and eventually Dhoni had to assume the leadership mantle again.
Next season, after a three-year hiatus, Dhoni will have a chance to return to his beloved Chepauk for CSK’s home games.
Last year, during a CSK felicitation programme, Dhoni had mentioned that his last T20 game would be in Chennai. “I have always planned my cricket. My last ODI that I played in India was in Ranchi. Hopefully my last T20 will be in Chennai. Whether it’s next year or in five years’ time, I don’t know,” he had said. The CSK management, too, expects him to have a proper farewell, in front of a full house at Chepauk.
At the moment though, as the official said, it would be about coming back strong next season, like the team had done last year, on the heels of a wretched 2021.
As a batsman, Dhoni is still capable of finishing games, as he did against MI in the first leg, or he can drop anchor, like he did in the second-leg fixture against the same time. His franchise is banking on him lead the fightback.
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