The Chennai Super Kings came up with a seven-wicket win over Sunrisers Hyderabad on Friday, in their Indian Super League clash at the Chepauk Stadium in Chennai. It was a win that took CSK back to third in the league table with four triumphs and two losses in their six games – the joint-best tally with Rajasthan Royals and Lucknow Super Giants.

Playing at the Chepauk though meant that fan-support would be directed more towards one player than one team. Former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been a crowd-favourite for the CSK-faithful since the inaugural season of the IPL in 2008. And the 41-year-old is happy lapping up the adoration.

“Whatever is said and done, this is the last phase of my career. However long I play, it’s very important to enjoy it. The IPL, after two years it’s been the case where (spectators) can come and enjoy the game, it’s a full house. It feels good to play here. We haven’t played in Chennai a lot, we’ve only played around six seasons. It feels good to be here, we’re always given a lot of love and affection,” Dhoni said during the post-match presentation.

“I’m not getting too many chances to bat, but I’m not complaining. The guys are doing a fantastic job, but it feels good to be here.”

On Friday, Dhoni won the toss and opted to bowl first. Ravindra Jadeja starred with the ball, picking up three wickets for 22 runs in his four overs – a player of the match winning effort. It was instrumental in restricting SRH to 134/7. In response, courtesy Devon Conway’s 77 off 57, CSK marched home to a comfortable win.

Dhoni though did claim that he was unsure of his decision at the toss.

“I was quite hesitant to bat second because I had the feeling that there won’t be much dew, it was quite cloudy. But when there’s chances of dew, you have to bat second. I was watching what was happening, the spinners, once they came in, they were bowling a very good length and it was stopping a bit. It made it slightly difficult for the batters,” he said.

“Once the fast bowlers came back, especially (Matheesha) Pathirana, he bowled fantastic line and length. Overall, the middle overs were the set-up, and the fast bowlers bowled really well in the last few overs.”

Dhoni was particularly impressed by the bowling performance of Sri Lankan Pathirana. The 20-year-old, like former Sri Lankan bowling star Lasith Malinga, has a sling-arm action.

“He has the skill set, he’s very difficult (to read), you need to time to pick his action. You may play him in a game every day but still once you see him in a game for the first time, you need deliveries to see what is happening,” Dhoni explained.

“He’s got variations, he’s got good pace. And we’ve seen with Malinga, somebody who has an awkward action but is very consistent with his line and length, it’s very difficult to score consistently against him. (Pathirana) is definitely been a find, and with the last few overs that he’s been bowling, he’s definitely been a great asset.”

Pathirana's sling-arm bowling action (Courtesy: Ron Gaunt / SPORTZPICS for IPL)

Central do CSK’s success over the years – the team has won the title four times – has been Dhoni’s astute captaincy and ability to make decisions calmly – be it field placements of bowling changes. He revealed though that he has been mostly leaving it up to the bowler as to what where the fielders should be placed.

“I always tell them that the first preference of field and whatever you want to bowl is with you. Yes, you can convey it to me and I may so ‘no, I’m not looking for something like this,’” he added.

“Other than that, from behind, if the batter is someone who can play the scoop shot, then I try to tell them that we’ll keep this fielder behind or get some other fielder on the top. With (Dwayne) Bravo it was difficult because he would never agree (smiles), but he’d keep an eye on the batter. But with the youngsters, you tell them, after that it’s still their call about what field they want.”

It is uncertain how long the Indian legend will continue playing in the IPL. There has been speculation, but Dhoni has maintained a solid level of fitness. On Friday, he made a quick-reaction catch off Aiden Markram, and then joked about his annoyance at not receiving the best catch of the match award.

“I was in such a wrong position... just because we wear gloves people think it’s easy. I felt that it was a fantastic catch, not because of the ability, at times you’re at the wrong place at the wrong time and you still catch it,” he joked.

“Long time back, I remember Rahul Dravid was keeping and he caught something like that. With your skill set you cannot take a catch like that, you have to be at a very wrong position to take a catch like that.”

He then added: “Once you get old, that’s the only time you get more experience. Unless you’re Sachin (Tendulkar) Paaji and you start playing at 16-17. I’m definitely old, you can’t shy away from that.”

Dhoni and Co will not get much time to recover. CSK’s next assignment is an away match to Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday.