A Dhoni googly again, but it still looks like his last IPL

At 41, Dhoni seems to be as agile as ever behind the stumps and has been hitting the ball well again and more importantly, the CSK management’s obsession with the Thala means that anything is possible

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Photo: Getty Images)
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Photo: Getty Images)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

After a yellow fever at the Eden Gardens on April 23 for what seemed like a send-off party for M.S. Dhoni, it was the Ekana Stadium’s turn in Lucknow on Wednesday. The difference was if the talismanic Chennai Super Kings captain had played along the popular sentiments in Kolkata, he struck a different tune in response to the obvious question from cricketer-turned-TV pundit Danny Morrison.

Replying to the New Zealand veteran’s question if he was enjoying his swansong and ‘last IPL,’ Dhoni clearly embarrassed him with a reply which has set the tongues wagging again. ‘’You’ve decided that it’s my last season, not me,’’ said the two-time World Cup winning captain before walking off with a smile, leaving a cheering crown agog with anticipation.

Is there, realistically speaking, a window of opportunity then that ‘MSD’—the Pied Piper of Indian cricket—may extend his IPL career as a player beyond 2023? At 41 years, he seems to be as agile as ever behind the stumps and has been hitting the ball well again and more importantly, the CSK management’s obsession with the Thala means that anything is possible.

Well, it’s anybody’s guess at the moment but given the context of the icon’s declaration ahead of the season that he wanted to play before the Chennai crowd before signing off—Morrison’s question was not really off the mark. However, Virender Sehwag, an erstwhile teammate of Dhoni felt it was out of line to ask Dhoni such a specific question.

‘’I just don't understand... why do they even ask? Even if it’s last year, why do you have to ask him? It’s his call, let him take that! Maybe he just wanted to get that answer out of Dhoni, that it was indeed his last season. Whether it's his last year or not, only M.S. Dhoni knows,’’ Sehwag said on Cricbuzz.

Now, let’s face it—Morrison was not really trying to probe for a definite answer from Dhoni about calling time on his international career. The kind of adulation that he had been receiving across the country this season—cutting across team loyalties—has set such a mood that a question like this was actually a no-brainer.

Those who have tracked Dhoni’s personality over the years will, of course, admit two traits about him—there is a clear distaste for any drama for any poignant moment in his career, along with a penchant for keeping the media guessing about his next move. Personally speaking, I don’t see him going back on his plans of IPL 2023 being his last as a player—but who knows if the Yellove can touch the Mumbai Paltans’ record of five IPL titles.

It may be interesting to run through what the man of the moment himself said on the issue on record so far. ‘’All said and done, it’s the last phase of my career, however long I play,’’ Dhoni said after his team defeated the Sunrisers Hyderabad at home late last month.

Dhoni is a man who often talks about living in the moment—a pal do pal ka shayar (a poet for a fleeting moment). While the CSK army is well-poised to make the play-offs and take a shot at the title, he is only too aware there can be always a slip between the lip and the cup. Hence, a clear commitment on his part of this being his ‘last IPL’ may distract the team from it’s goal at the business-end—and that’s the last thing he would want.

If the job gets done, you may see another cryptic social media post from him that he’s done with IPL as a player—much like the way he did with international cricket. But then, like all good things…

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