IPL 2024: No fuss as Dhoni’s succession plan kicks in at Chennai Super Kings

Choice of Ruturaj Gaikwad as new captain meets with approval from CSK greats

M.S. Dhoni (left) hands it over to Ruturaj Gaikwad (photo courtesy: BCCI)
M.S. Dhoni (left) hands it over to Ruturaj Gaikwad (photo courtesy: BCCI)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

There was a buzz that Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the talismanic captain who helped Chennai Super Kings (CSK) win five IPL (Indian Premier League) titles to create his own legacy, may usher in a succession plan in what would be his final bow. It came in a typically MSD way, without any fuss, a day before the team is to begin its title defence in IPL 2024, with him handing over the captaincy to 27-year-old opener Ruturaj Gaikwad on Thursday.

"M.S. Dhoni has handed over Chennai Super Kings’ captaincy to Ruturaj Gaikwad ahead of the start of TATA IPL 2024. Ruturaj has been an integral part of Chennai Super Kings since 2019 and has played 52 matches in IPL during this period. The team looks forward to the upcoming season,’’ CSK said in a statement.

A pragmatic decision, given the fact that at 42, the two-time World Cup-winning captain has already gambled with his fitness by registering as a player. Soon after leading his team to a record-equalling fifth title (with Mumbai Indians) after defeating Gujarat Titans in the final in Ahmedabad last year, Dhoni headed for a knee surgery but promised his legion of fans that he would try to be back this season.

With the compulsion of captaincy gone, he could play a player-mentor’s role and even enjoy the option of being utlilised as an impact player. Incidentally, Dhoni had attempted to relinquish the captaincy once before in 2022, but that ended in disaster, with Ravindra Jadeja looking clueless as a leader while the former remained de facto captain. The thala (leader), as Dhoni is referred to by the 'whistle podu' army, had to eventually take over after eight matches.

Two more seasons down the line, there are winds of change blowing through leadership ranks across teams — the most controversial one being that of Hardik Pandya replacing Rohit Sharma rather unceremoniously in Mumbai Indians. However, those familiar with the ethos of CSK over the years will endorse that Dhoni enjoys a rather unique position in the hire-and-fire ecosystem of the IPL, and it was no surprise that he picked his own successor.

It will be a classic case of old giving way to the new, albeit with a sense of dignity, when young Ruturaj leads out the yellow shirts at their Chennai home for the IPL lung opener against Royal Challengers Bengaluru on Friday. There could be a few butterflies in the stomach for the opener with the ready smile, but he will have the reassuring hand of MSD on his back.

How good a captain is Ruturaj, who incidentally led a second-string India to gold in men’s cricket at the Hangzhou Asian Games in August 2023? Much like Shubman Gill in Gujarat Titans, Ruturaj has been at his consistent best in the IPL over the last few seasons, raking up 1,797 runs at a strike rate of 135.5 and forming one of the most successful opening pairs in the league along with Kiwi Devon Conway (ruled out of the first half of the IPL with an injury).

In IPL 2023, Ruturaj's contribution to the team title was significant as he scored 590 runs in 16 appearances, showcasing his potential to lead the team to the future. His choice was also endorsed by Suresh Raina, another erstwhile pillar of the CSK journey, as the correct replacement for the legend.

Catch the Match

IPL 2024


Venue: M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai

Start: 8.00 pm IST

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