NEW DELHI: Having announced his retirement altogether from international cricket in August this year, Mahendra Singh Dhoni decided to continue playing in the Indian Premier League. And he has already made it clear that he will be back for the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL next year.
Asked at the toss if CSK’s final league game of the IPL 2020 against Kings XI Punjab was his last, Dhoni gave a prompt reply saying: “Definitely not”. It might have made Dhoni’s fans heave a huge sigh of relief, but what cannot be denied is that the 39-year-old Dhoni did struggle with the bat in this edition of the IPL.
Dhoni played competitive cricket for the first time since last year’s World Cup semi-final loss vs New Zealand and the lack of match practise and the subsequent result of that was there for all to see. Dhoni, who has been instrumental in CSK’s phenomenal success over the years in the IPL, both with his captaincy skills and batting prowess, registered his worst performance ever in the history of the IPL, scoring only 200 runs in 14 games with no half-centuries and an overall strike rate of 116.27.
A quick look at how Dhoni has done with the bat in all the seasons so far shows that he has scored over 250 runs in every edition, barring the current one. His strike rate of 116.27 is also a shade better than what was his worst before the 2020 edition (116 in 2017, though he scored 90 runs more in that edition). In both 2018 and 2019 (when CSK won the title and were runners-up respectively), Dhoni scored over 400 runs.
Dhoni’s performance with the bat had an impact on his team’s fortunes as well this time, as Chennai Super Kings failed to make the IPL playoffs for the first time ever.
Some feel the legendary former Indian captain who is still the only international skipper to have won all three ICC trophies (ODI World Cup, T20 World Cup and Champions Trophy) stands at the twilight of his IPL career as well.
Former Indian skipper, the legendary Kapil Dev in fact recently said that he believes it will be impossible for Dhoni to perform well if he decides on playing from IPL to IPL, without getting any other match practice, which was the case this year.
“If Dhoni decides on playing only IPL every year, then it’s impossible for him to perform. It’s not a good thing to talk about age but at his age (39 years), the more he plays, the more his body will be tuned,” Kapil said.
MS Dhoni. (BCCI/IPL/ANI Photo)
In the first eight editions of the league, Dhoni led CSK to two titles (2010 and 2011) and four runner-up finishes. He was then drafted by the Rising Pune Supergiant, when CSK were suspended for two seasons. He once again became the first player to be retained by CSK ahead of the 2018 auction.
The 2018 IPL season had a fairytale ending for Dhoni and his boys, as CSK made a terrific comeback to the league by winning their third title. Then in 2019 Dhoni and the Super Kings almost won their fourth title, but lost by just one run to Mumbai in the final.
There is no doubt that he still has one of the sharpest cricketing minds and will always be synonymous with CSK. And knowing Dhoni, he will not want to continue playing if he doesn’t feel he can get better as a batsman and hitter. With his franchise backing him to the hilt, will we see the Mahi of old in 2021? He might be 39, but then Chris Gayle who is 41 is still showing the world why he can continue playing in this format and rather successfully at that.
MS Dhoni. (BCCI/IPL/ANI Photo)