The question on everyone’s minds on Monday as MS Dhoni walked up to share his thoughts on winning a fifth Indian Premier League title with Chennai Super Kings was: is he going to stay or is he going to announce his retirement?
Harsha Bhogle didn’t waste time in getting to that question.
“Circumstantially if you see, this is the best time for me to announce the retirement. But...,” Dhoni said and paused as the cheers went around at 3 am. He continued, “...the amount of love and affection that I’ve been shown wherever I’ve been this year – the easy thing would be for me to say thank you very much. But the tough thing would be for me is to come back and work hard for 9 months and play at least one more season of IPL.”
The 41-year old hinted at possibly being in the CSK side in 2024, but said that “a lot depends on the body. I have 6-7 months to decide. It will be more like a gift from my side - it’s not easy for me, but the way they’ve shown their love and affection, I think that’s something I need to do for them.”
As someone who is known for remaining cool and unflappable during high-intensity moments in his career, Dhoni conceded that even ‘Captain Cool’ gets emotional at times. “You do get emotional for the simple fact that it’s the last part of my career,” Dhoni said. “I think it started over here (in Ahmedabad) when I was playing the first game, I walked down and the full house was chanting my name – my eyes actually filled with water. I just stood there in the dugout for a while and took my time and I realised I want to enjoy it and not take that pressure.”
Referencing Qualifier 1 in Chennai where Dhoni and his team beat Gujarat Titans to send them straight into the final, Dhoni said, “I think it was the same thing in Chennai – it was my last game over there but it will be good to come back and play over there whatever I can.”
Here’s what Ravindra Jadeja, hero on the night in front of his home fans, had to say:
CSK coach Stephen Fleming commented that for Dhoni, who is usually at the centre of the climax in important matches, it must have felt different for him on Monday night. “He’s won it more times being out there in the middle than sitting so for him to watch it and win is a bit unusual. As calm and cool as he is means a lot – the franchise is very dear to his heart and he gives a lot to it,” the former New Zealand captain said.
The Dhoni from his peak years was on display when his quick reflexes brought Shubman Gill’s innings to a crashing halt, stumping him on 39. When asked about any special training done by Dhoni, Fleming quipped, “I can share with you that MS has done absolutely no wicket keeping practice in the IPL – it’s all natural. He tried to do a coaching session with Devon Conway who’s an international keeper and it was almost comical explaining what he does and how untraditional it is. But today was phenomenal and the way he does it is just awesome and that stumping (of Gill) was MS Dhoni at his best. It’s not trained, it’s just natural and it’s learned from tennis ball cricket and it’s just pure skill.”
Playing on the same ground where one year earlier they lifted the IPL trophy for the first time, GT captain Hardik Pandya admitted that perhaps it was written in the stars for someone like Dhoni. “I’m very happy for him – destiny had this written for him. If I had to lose, I don’t mind losing to him as well. I mentioned last year as well, good things happen to good people and he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve met. God’s been kind to me as well but I think God gave him a little more today,” he said in the post-match presentation.
While the final at Ahmedabad may not be a farewell game for Dhoni, it was indeed good-bye for Ambati Rayudu who announced his retirement from the tournament on Sunday. It was a fitting end to a career that has seen Rayudu win 6 titles with two different teams, CSK and Mumbai Indians. Fleming credited the 37-year old for his 19 off 8 balls and said, “That over, three balls against Mohit Sharma proved why. Mohit’s one of the in-form death bowlers and the way Rayudu hit him for 6-4-6 was pure class so he will leave a hole behind, no doubt about it.”
Dhoni knew that Rayudu would do something special in his final game. “The special thing about Rayudu is if he’s on the field, he will give you 100%. The second thing is with him in the team, I will never win the Fairplay award because he reacts too quickly (smiles). But what I will remember him for is that he always gives his 100%, he wants to contribute and he has been a fantastic cricketer. Right from when we played India A together, he’s somebody who has played spin and fast bowling equally well,” said Dhoni of his former India teammate.
Here’s what Rayudu had to say in the post-match interview: