MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja | Photo - IPL | Photograph:( Others )
MS Dhoni might have given up his throne at Chennai Super Kings looking at the future but he will remain the undisputed leader as long as he plays for the franchise.
MS Dhoni rarely fails to surprise. His has been a story laced with glory but the Dhoni era is nearing its end as we witness the last of the man who has been one of the greatest to have played the game and has won almost everything there is to be in world cricket.
The man who is known for pulling off surprises with his bold yet calculated moves, managed to stump his fans yet again last week when he stepped down as the captain of his beloved Chennai Super Kings (CSK) just two days ahead of the start of the ongoing season of Indian Premier League (IPL).
Those who know Dhoni would be okay with his decision as he has always been able to take the toughest of calls with the utmost composure, irrespective of their dramatic impact. In 2014, he had retired from Tests after a game against Australia in Melbourne without creating any fuss. He was just 10 short of completing 100 Test matches for India but decided to walk away while handing over the baton to Virat Kohli.
In 2017, Dhoni relinquished India's white-ball captaincy as well for Kohli giving his successor enough time to build his own side for the next World Cup in two years' time. It was another decision that left many scratching their heads but Dhoni knew the timing was right for him to pass over the baton.
Dhoni's self-imposed exits have been crafted in his own style - dipped in secrecy and full of surprise. His pattern of announcing his exits continued in the year 2020 when he confirmed his retirement from international cricket with an emotional video on Instagram that gave a glimpse of his entire journey - the highs and lows with the Indian team.
His arrival for Team India in 2004 was the start of a new dawn in Indian cricket as Dhoni led the team to unprecedented success across all formats. He clinched the maiden T20 World Cup title, won India's first Test mace, followed it up with a glorious World Cup triumph in 2011 and shut his critics by leading a young side to a Champions Trophy title in 2013.
His story with the Indian team had come to an end but he was still there for Chennai Super Kings. Many believed with the burden of playing international cricket off his shoulder, Dhoni would set the IPL alight in 2020 but it was not the case as he struggled and so did his team. CSK finished outside the playoffs for the first time in their history and Dhoni's waning prowess was there for everyone to see.
If scripting a fairytale comeback in 2018 by lifting their third IPL title post a two-year ban was not enough, Dhoni masterminded another one in 2021. CSK were down and out. Dhoni's men had been written off as the old legs in the squad were finding it difficult to keep up with the pace of the league.
But 2021 arrived and Dhoni the batter took a backseat for Dhoni the captain. The 39-year-old took his fans a trip down memory lane as he once again proved why he is one of the greatest leaders in the game. His shrewd brain combined with his unparalleled reading of the game and the ability to stay calm under pressure did wonders as CSK lifted their fourth title to complete a fairytale redemption.
A redemption that was for the ages and post which Dhoni was heard saying - "job done" after he handed over the trophy to his teammates for celebrations followed by fireworks lighting up the Dubai sky on the night of the IPL final. Not many had thought but they had seen the last of Dhoni as CSK's captain.
Just two days ahead of the start of IPL 2022, Dhoni sprung what can be his final surprise as a cricketer. It was announced that Dhoni will not be leading CSK anymore and has chosen Ravindra Jadeja to take his legacy forward at the franchise, which he nurtured over the years.
The story of Dhoni and CSK has been the story of the IPL. A team that had no icon player to kickstart their journey in the unheralded territory of IPL in 2008 found their hero in Dhoni. The love continued to blossom as Dhoni led the team to playoffs after playoffs. CSK played nine finals in just twelve seasons under the 'Thala' and won the IPL four times.
They also won the Champions League twice to be crowned as the best T20 team in the world. A prodigious youngster from Ranchi, who was handpicked to lead a Chennai team in the IPL went on to become a cult hero of the city. The respect and admiration Dhoni commands from Chennai fans is so much so that CSK is synonymous with his name.
But as all good things come to an end, Dhoni's journey as the captain of his beloved franchise has come to an end. But he will still be the undisputed leader no matter who leads the team out and wears the captain's armband for the Men in Yellow.
Dhoni remains indispensable for CSK but he has decided to pass the captaincy baton looking at the future and doing what he has always done as a cricketer - putting the team above himself. Dhoni knows he will still be there in Jadeja's initial years of captaincy and there is no better man to guide his successor from behind the stumps than himself.
While he will be there for Jadeja to help him in crunch situations and set up the field during crucial overs, Dhoni is unlikely to be in the all-rounder's ears all the time and will let him run the game. He will still be the go-to man for Jadeja but CSK will not anymore be Dhoni's team.