In July 2015, the Justice Lodha Committee pronounced a two-year ban for Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings, sending shock waves through the Indian cricket community.
The MS Dhoni-led franchise was arguably the most followed team in the Indian Premier League even back then, and a two-year period in the league without the team in yellow was seen as a major disappointment among the thousands of fans. In 2018, the team returned to the IPL in style, winning the trophy with what many felt to be one of the weakest CSK squads in the tournament’s history.
In Roar of the Lion, a documentary released on Hotstar ahead of the new IPL season, Dhoni talks about the dark period in his career when CSK were accused of various wrongdoings, with their owner’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan being arrested in May 2013. He was charged with betting, conspiracy and cheating and the franchise was quick to dissociate themselves from him.
Following are excerpts from Dhoni’s interviews regarding this saga that rocked Indian cricket and how he dealt with it.
On what it was like when the IPL final in 2013 was overshadowed by spot-fixing allegations (Gurunath Meiyappan was arrested on the day of the final between CSK and Mumbai Indians)
2013 was the most difficult phase in my life, I was never depressed as much as I was then. The closest was 2007 World Cup when we lost in the group stages. But all said and done, 2007 happened because we did not play good cricket. But 2013, the angle was completely different. People are talking about match-fixing and spot-fixing. It was the most talked about thing in the country.
Initially, when Guru’s name came up, [we knew] he was part of the team, all said and done. But in what capacity, that is debatable. Was he the owner, the team principal, the motivator... what exactly was he? I don’t know if anyone from the franchise introduced Guru to us as the owner... we all knew him as the son-in-law.
On his name being brought up in fixing allegations
My name also came up in talks of fixing. They started showcasing in the media or social media as if the team was involved, I was involved. Is it possible [in cricket]? Yes it is possible, anyone can do spot-fixing. Umpires can do that, batsmen can, bowlers can... but match-fixing needs the involvement of the majority of the players.
The problem when people think you are very strong, is that more often than not, nobody comes and asks: how are you doing. It was more of how I dealt with it. I did not want to talk about it to others, at the same time it was scratching me. I don’t want anything to affect my cricket. For me cricket is the most important thing.
On why allegations of match-fixing are not logical
Whatever I am today, whatever I have achieved is because of cricket. So the biggest crime that I can commit personally is not murder. It’s actually match fixing because it doesn’t get restricted to me. If I’m involved in such a thing, it has a bigger impact. If people think a match is fixed because the outcome of a match is extraordinary, then people lose their faith in cricket. I don’t think in my life I would deal with something that is tougher than this.
On his silence post the incident
What makes it even tougher is that, as the Indian captain you keep going to press conferences. There is a known line that is drawn that that was the IPL and this is the Indian cricket team. It’s not easy to keep performing at the top level when these things are on your mind. Ten years down the line, no one is going to remember what was said in a press conference but how the team did.
On the quantum of punishment from the Lodha Committee
Given the sequence of events, we knew a harsh punishment was on the line. We did deserve the punishment but the only thing is the quantum of the punishment. Finally we got to know that CSK will be banned for two years. There was a mixed feeling that time. Because you take a lot of things personally and, as a captain, question what did the team do wrong. Yes there was mistake from our side [the franchise] but were the players involved in this? What mistake did we, as players, do to go through all of that?
On his association with CSK
No one can quite explain it. My association with Chennai Super Kings is like a match made on matrimonial site – an arranged marriage. The amount of respect and love we’ve received from the fans, it’s like how they treat god.
(Excerpts from MS Dhoni’s interviews in the first episode of Hotstar docudrama Roar of the Lion, titled ‘What did we do wrong?’)