MS Dhoni once again guided Chennai Super Kings to the IPL title as they won for the fourth time by beating Kolkata Knight Riders in the final at Dubai.
“It’s not about me playing for CSK, it’s about what is best for CSK. The core group that can carry the team for 10 years.” These were the words spoken by MS Dhoni immediately after the end of the final against Kolkata Knight Riders. Chennai Super Kings had won the IPL title for the fourth time and it was the ultimate redemption story. From the low of 2020 in which they failed to qualify for the playoffs, questions were raised over the age of the team and whether there is a future.
In 348 days, all those doubts were replaced with jubilation and celebration in the same country where they had reached their lowest ebb. That is perhaps the entire definition of MS Dhoni’s legacy as a captain. Whenever he has hit a roadblock, he has found the way out due to his sheer determination. His method of bouncing back is not based on hardcore facts, numbers, and analysis. But, it is on sheer gut instinct. This is the same factor that Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming pointed out.
It is his gut instinct that has served as the blueprint for his entire career. How else can you explain that Joginder Sharma would get the final over in a final of an ICC event? In what way can one imagine that MS Dhoni would develop his batting by taking the game deep into the final ball of the match? The move to No.4 in the final of the ICC World Cup 2011 is another example. It is this factor of gut instinct that has helped Dhoni scale the summit in every way in every competition.
IPL, CLT20, ICC events, it is this gut instinct that has helped him in every which way. The gut instinct of Dhoni ripples across the team, giving confidence to each and everyone who plays with him. Even in IPL 2021, it was far from perfect. Dhoni was not going great guns with the bat even at No.4. But, his captaincy made up for most of the defects he had with the bat. His captaincy was spot-on primarily because the entire team adapted.
In IPL 2021, they were blessed with a core that stayed with them for the entire duration. No injuries, no coronavirus, and a settled base in both batting and bowling. Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur, along with Dwayne Bravo and Josh Hazlewood were on the mark right from the very beginning.
But, the biggest gain for CSK was Ruturak Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis. Gaikwad had stolen the show with three fifties in the last three matches of IPL 2020. In this edition, he showed his worth. The partnerships at the top with du Plessis laid the platform for most of the wins. Over 750 partnership runs from the duo at an average of close to 50 and a strike rate in excess of 120 was the key difference-maker for Chennai Super Kings.
Du Plessis and Gaikwad’s form, along with Chahar and Thakur’s penetration, ensured that the remaining individuals just had to do their part. They were boosted by the all-round finishing skills of Jadeja, who showed his mettle with the bat and ball in crunch situations. Against RCB and KKR, it was Jadeja who turned the course of the match with his sensational cameos at the end. With the ball, he took 13 wickets at an economy rate of 7.06. He chipped in when it mattered. Unlike other teams, every member of the CSK unit chipped in when it mattered.
The legacy of Dhoni is unmatched in the cricketing world. Yet, when asked as to how he has left his legacy behind, he gave a simple but classy answer. “Well, I still haven’t left behind.” Dhoni has now ensured that he is not behind his peers when it comes to achievements. Until 2020, Mumbai Indians had held the mantle of winning the IPL both away and at home. Now, Chennai Super Kings can match their fancied rivals even in this aspect.
Even when he is 40, Dhoni still has some of the best tactics in the business. In this IPL, he was helped by at least half of the squad who were fit, committed, and were in good form. Be it Gaikwad, du Plessis, Bravo, Jadeja, Chahar, and Thakur, they had some notable contributions either during the break or in the international calendar.
No one knows what is the future for CSK and Dhoni when the mega-auction arrives. Dhoni will be in the yellow franchise but in what role is unclear. If he has to leave, then for once it can be on the ultimate high. His international departure was sudden, muted and it left a big gaping hole in the hearts of the fans. Now, in the IPL, perhaps MS Dhoni will be given a fitting departure. Or maybe, he still has a surprise in store. An artist never reveals his true emotions, hiding them in layers of colours. This is perhaps, MS Dhoni, in a nutshell.