Every time MS Dhoni walks out to bat in Indian Premier League has felt like a mega event in 2023. The Chennai Super Kings captain is 41 now and it is not yet clear if IPL 2023 is his swansong. Ask him and he replies back “well, you have decided it’s my last” but every now and then, he keeps dropping hints at various venues in the country that turn yellow for his arrival. Perhaps, as has mostly been the case, only he knows when the time to hang up his boots are.
But one thing in certain. MS Dhoni is striking the ball as well as he ever has in the IPL.
One of the pre-tournament images that went viral was Dhoni practising at Chepauk in his sleeveless training kit and the biceps looking scary good. You immediately wondered, what’s in store with the bat from him this season.
Against Delhi Capitals on Wednesday, he once again showed what his Modus Operandi for this season is. Minimum presence, maximum impact. After his 9-ball 20 against DC in Chepauk, Dhoni has now hit as many sixes this season (10) as he did in 2022 (10) and 2020+2021 combined (7+3), off the 96 balls he has faced.
MS Dhoni's IPL career
The roles have changed clearly. He has rarely walked into bat before the final few overs. In fact, the last couple of overs is when he seems to want to bat these days. CSK’s batting depth, his own fitness issues with a dodgy knee, are all part of the reasons one could presume.
Let’s be honest, Dhoni hasn’t had the best of times with the bat in the last couple of seasons, despite the occasional flashback. There was that one October night in 2021 that made Virat Kohli tweet: “And the king is back, the greatest finisher ever in the game. Made me jump outta my seat once again tonight.” It was when Dhoni took CSK past the finish against DC in Qualifier 1.
But in 2023, despite limited game time in the middle with the bat, it’s been blockbuster stuff from the former India captain. His strike rate of 204.26 (after 11 matches) is the best he has ever posted in the 16 years of IPL.
MS Dhoni's strike rate in the IPL
The balls faced per innings from Dhoni is also the least in 2023, meaning he barely spends any time in the middle. But those moments have been punctuated by some big hits. He has hit a six every 4.7 balls he has faced in 2023, by some distance the best in his IPL career.
|Year||Matches||Balls faced||Sixes||Balls / six|
And his 4.70 balls per six is also the best in the league for anyone who has hit at least 10 sixes.
Balls/six in IPL 2023 (Min 10 sixes)
|Player||Inns||SR||6s||Balls / six|
|MS Dhoni (CSK)||8||204.25||10||4.70|
|GJ Maxwell (RCB)||11||186.44||27||6.56|
|S Dube (CSK)||10||159.89||27||7.30|
|AD Russell (KKR)||11||154.07||16||8.44|
|H Klaasen (SRH)||7||185.34||13||8.92|
|JM Sharma (PBKS)||11||160.49||18||9.00|
|TH David (MI)||11||165.74||12||9.00|
|N Pooran (LSG)||11||160||17||9.12|
|SO Hetmyer (RR)||11||145.33||16||9.38|
|NT Tilak Varma (MI)||9||158.38||18||9.61|
“This is what my job is, I have told them this is what I am supposed to do, don’t make me run a lot and it has been working. This is what I need to do, happy to contribute,” Dhoni said with a cheeky smile after the win against Delhi.
Here’s a look at some of the hits from Dhoni this season as he continues to delight CSK fans how much ever he can:
And of course, you only have to see this reception he got during a training session to understand the sway he has over the Chennai crowd:
It is not evident how much longer he will carry one but as long as he does, CSK fans will expect those big hits from their main man. And in 2023, he seems to keep delivering. Along the lines of a famous dialogue in the Rajinikanth blockbuster Padayappa goes, despite ageing, this man continues to enthrall.
Numbers as of the completing of CSK’s innings vs DC on 10 May