Four years after stepping away from international cricket, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has impressively reinvented himself as a powerful lower-order batsman for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Sports journalist Suresh Menon ponders the extraordinary transformation of the 41-year-old cricket icon.
When this IPL season concludes, it might be worth considering naming the trophy after someone who truly embodies the spirit and significance of the tournament – none other than Dhoni. As a perpetual face of the IPL, the “MS Dhoni Trophy” has an appealing sound.
In the first edition of the IPL in 2008, Dhoni was the highest-priced player, and 15 years later, he remains CSK’s most valuable asset. His presence encapsulates the very best and most thrilling aspects of the T20 franchise tournament.
Even among Chennai’s revered film stars and politicians, Dhoni holds a unique place during IPL season. The bond between CSK and its fans is exceptional, with Dhoni serving as the embodiment of the team. As a gifted six-hitter and skilled leader, he ensures no match is lost as long as he’s on the field.
Since the IPL’s inception in 2008, Dhoni has guided CSK to four victories. Every year since his international retirement, questions about him leaving cricket altogether have arisen. However, Dhoni remains focused on leading CSK to another title, potentially matching the Mumbai Indians’ record of five championships.
Dhoni’s originality as a captain and mentor to young players is still evident in the IPL. As he approaches 42, his leadership alone justifies his place on the team.
Dhoni once said that he desired a team willing to give their all when it mattered most, and he has found that in CSK. Despite carrying a knee injury this year, Dhoni has opted to bat at No. 8, telling his teammates, “Don’t make me run a lot.” His role, he explained, is “to bat at the death and hit out.”
Dhoni’s current strike rate in the IPL is 204, with 96 runs from just 47 balls and a six every 4.7 deliveries. His arrival at the crease as a No. 8 batsman generates immense anticipation.
His teammate Ravindra Jadeja admits to not being eager to enter at No.7, as the crowd often chants “Dhoni, Dhoni” in hopes of witnessing another wicket fall.
Dhoni’s reinvention holds lessons for players who bat below No.3 and for older batters. In T20 cricket, making an impact through big hits is essential. Dhoni demonstrates that a 20 off nine balls is more valuable than a 50 off 70.
Maintaining the fitness and passion to play T20 at 41 requires self-awareness and humility, qualities Dhoni has consistently displayed. He recognizes that the days of scoring big hundreds and fifties may be behind him, and there’s no sense trying to relive past glories.
Dhoni’s future in the IPL remains uncertain, but naming the trophy after him would be a fitting tribute. After all, it was his team that secured India’s victory in the 2007 World Cup, paving the way for the IPL’s inception.