IPL: Time for CSK camp to get over the obsession with MS Dhoni

Sport does not always guarantee fairytale endings, even for the iconic captain

Time for farewell?
Time for farewell?

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Professional sport does not always make way for fairytale endings — as it was proved once more with Mahendra Singh Dhoni's failure to take Chennai Super Kings over the line on Saturday. It hence became an anti-climax of sorts even as Chennai is scheduled to host the final next Sunday along with the qualifier 2.

The question in its wake, however, is: can the IPL franchise and their legion of fans come to terms with it? More than a day after CSK were pipped at the post by Royal Challengers Bengaluru for a spot in the last four of IPL 2024, speculation has already begun whether it was actually the last season for India’s most decorated skipper. A Times of India report says the 42-year-old veteran has sought a couple of months’ time before committing on his future with the yellow shirts.

‘’Dhoni has not told anybody in CSK that he is quitting. He has told the management that he will wait for a couple of months before taking a final call. He did not feel any discomfort in his running between the wickets and that is a plus,’’ a franchise official was quoted as saying.

If this, by implication, means that the team ownership is indeed planning to extend his services in the new season, then their and the fans’ obsession with the icon needs to be questioned.

The aura about ‘MSD’ is such that it turns even the former players-turned-TV pundits, more so those who have been part of his journey with the Yellove, into fan boys. Robin Uthappa, who spent a number of seasons with CSK, said Dhoni is someone who doesn’t take such defeat or humiliation lightly while Shane Watson felt he could continue as a player for another one or two seasons.

Mathew Hayden, another CSK great, was more pragmatic though: “I think this is it. I do believe that this will be the last time that Dhoni will play. Certainly, won’t be the last time that we see Dhoni. I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t mentor or be a part of the family of CSK in an official capacity.”

Just ponder this: the entire IPL 2023 was billed as the farewell tour of Dhoni the cricketer and leader and it saw a befitting end when the glittering trophy shone brightly in his hands. However, Dhoni wanted to do it one more time for his fans and did so with a persistent calf injury right through this season — doing some unblemished work behind the stumps but restricting himself to cameos while batting at number eight or even nine.

The injury effectively meant the team was being robbed of his invaluable services up the order in closing out matches as he batted in eight innings of 14 matches and could muster 161 runs.

The current season being still on, it’s purely hypothetical to speculate at this stage whether one sees Dhoni as a player or mentor next year. The muscle memory, along with the natural athleticism in him, may still bring out the odd spark in him — but it’s difficult to see the magic of the past being recreated over and over again.

Time and tide really waits for no one, even if you are M.S. Dhoni!

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