Mahendra Singh Dhoni will return to cricket action on September 19 when Chennai Super Kings take the field against Mumbai Indians, marking the resumption of the 2021 Indian Premier League. Ever since his international retirement in August 2020, the IPL has been the only tournament where Dhoni remains an active cricketer. Earlier this month, BCCI’s decision to rope in Dhoni as mentor for Team India in the T20 World Cup also hints at his gradual progression towards a potential coaching role.
The veteran wicketkeeper-batsman has been a member of the Chennai Super Kings since the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2008 bar two seasons (2016 and 2017) when he represented the Rising Pune Supergiants in wake of CSK’s suspension. However, he steered a remarkable comeback season for the Super Kings in 2018, beating Mumbai Indians in the final of the edition.
After Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni has been the most successful captain in the IPL with three titles. CSK has also been the most consistent side in the tournament with appearances in semifinals/playoffs in all but one edition.
After a poor 2020 season where the CSK finished seventh, the Dhoni-led side made a strong return to form this year and currently stands second in the table, with five wins in seven matches. While Dhoni’s own power-hitting abilities have declined over time, his captaincy has remained astute as ever. In the current season, Dhoni led CSK to five victories on the trot after an opening-game defeat against Delhi Capitals, and the Chennai-based franchise remains one of the frontrunners to lift the coveted IPL title on October 15.
An IPL Success
While he has three titles under his belt as captain, Dhoni’s individual record has been among the very best in the tournament. With 4,699 runs in 211 matches, Dhoni is the eighth-highest run-scorer in the tournament, and highest among players who have played as wicketkeepers across all seasons.
MS Dhoni has been the face of Chennai Super Kings ever since the inaugural season of the league, and was also the first captain to win back-to-back titles (in 2010 & 2011) -- a feat only repeated by Mumbai Indians' Rohit Sharma so far.
Dhoni's batting stock has declined in the past two seasons with the CSK captain scoring 200 runs in 14 matches in the 2020 edition, and accumalating only 37 runs in 7 games so far in the current season. However, his knack of promoting youngsters and timely tweaks with team combinations were key to CSK's strong comeback after a dismal IPL 2020.
MS Dhoni remains the most successful international captain, leading India to every ICC trophy before stepping down as skipper in 2017. Under the leadership of Dhoni, India won the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007 before earning the ICC Test Mace at the end of 2009.
In 2011, Dhoni’s India ended a 28-year wait to lift the World Cup trophy at home. Two years later, the wicketkeeper-batsman completed his ICC trophy cabinet with Champions Trophy victory.
Dhoni represented India in 350 ODIs, scoring 10,773 runs at an impressive average of 50.6. He ended his Test career in 2014 with 90 appearances in the longest format, scoring 4,876 runs. In T20Is, the wicketkeeper-batsman scored at an average of 37.6 to put 1,617 runs in 98 matches.
Dhoni will join Team India as mentor for the 2021 T20 World Cup, working alongside head coach Ravi Shastri and captain Virat Kohli to help end India’s 8-year wait for an ICC trophy.
In the CSK side, Ravindra Jadeja is the only Indian in the 15-member T20 WC squad, with Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur currently in reserves. Both pacers will be aiming for strong performances to make the case for an inclusion in the final squad for the global tournament, which begins on October 17.
While it may be too early to speculate, a strong performance from Indian team in the T20 World Cup will most certainly add to Dhoni’s credentials in coaching role, which could be a probable next step of his career once the 39-year-old hangs his boots in the IPL.
Former Indian cricketer Virender Sehwag has also provided insights into Dhoni’s potential role as mentor.
“There are always players in any international side, who are shy and do hesitate to go up to their skipper and strike up a cricketing conversation. MS has always been that kind of a person who is easily approachable and also a perfect trouble shooter for youngsters,” Sehwag had said.