The Chennai Super Kings management is confident that the 2021 IPL is not going to be MS Dhoni’s swansong as a cricketer and the team captain would play at least one more season before waving goodbye in front of ‘home’ fans at Chepauk.
“I don’t think so,” said a CSK insider, when asked if this IPL could be Dhoni’s last as a cricketer. “Think he would like to play his last game at Chepauk, which is very likely,” he told The Indian Express.
This follows mixed signals from the former India captain over the last two days. On Tuesday, at an India Cements function, Dhoni dropped a hint that he would continue to lead CSK next season as well. When asked by a fan, he had said: “When it comes to the farewell, you can come and see me play for CSK and that can be my farewell game. So you will get the opportunity to bid me farewell. Hopefully, we will come to Chennai and play my last game over there and (I) can meet all the fans.”
On Thursday, however, before CSK’s game against Punjab Kings, when Star Sports commentator Danny Morrison asked Dhoni about his future plans at the toss, the CSK skipper replied: “You will see me in yellow next season but whether I will be playing for CSK you never know. There are a lot of uncertainties coming up; two new teams are coming… We don’t know what the retention rules are and so on.”
Two new teams will be joining the IPL fold next year and a full auction is scheduled. The IPL governing council would come up with the retention policy; how many players each franchise would be allowed to retain, at what respective price tags. According to a source, Dhoni has kept the CSK management in the loop about his future plans.
Dhoni retired from international cricket on August 15 last year but carried on as a CSK player. However, as a batsman, he has been a pale shadow of his past for the last couple of seasons. This year particularly has been below par – 96 runs from 14 matches at 13.71, with a strike-rate of 95.04. His career T20 strike-rate is 134.18. But he has yet again led his team to another IPL Playoffs. Also, the 40-year-old has captained his team to three IPL titles.
Dhoni doesn’t have an employee-employer relationship with his franchise. Last year, during a conversation with this paper, CSK supremo and former BCCI president N Srinivasan spoke about how it was completely upon Dhoni to decide his stay as a CSK player. “He can play for CSK as long as he wants,” Srinivasan had said, adding: “I don’t know how the bond between him and Tamil Nadu and Chennai developed. In the early seasons of the IPL, he would come, he would go (out) in his motorbike. People took to him. One of the reasons for CSK’s success under Dhoni is that he never thinks beyond the match. He never gets digressed.”