Former India captain and current Chennai Super Kings (CSK) skipper MS Dhoni is all set to lead CSK in the second half of IPL 2021 in the UAE. After CSK struggled for rhythm last season and failed to make the playoffs for the first time, they came back strongly in the India leg of this year’s edition. When the event was suspended due to COVID-19, CSK were second in the points table with five wins from seven matches, below only Delhi Capitals. While Dhoni will be confident of the franchise making the playoffs when the tournament resumes in the UAE, there is a strong chance that the CSK skipper will bid farewell to the IPL at the end of the season, irrespective of the result.
MSD the batter is a shadow of his former self
The prime reason why Dhoni is unlikely to continue playing cricket after IPL 2021 is because he is nowhere near his best with the bat. At the age of 40, he is well past his prime. His reflexes while batting have slowed down tremendously, which explains why he hasn’t been able to hit the big strokes all that regularly. Most of Dhoni’s visits to the crease in the first half of IPL 2021 were lethargic. It was not a great sight to see Dhoni struggling, looking like a pale shadow of his former self.
Dhoni managed only 37 runs in the 30 balls he faced in the first half of IPL 2021 at a strike rate of 123.33 with a best of 18. The CSK skipper was undone by talented rookies like Avesh Khan and Chetan Sakariya. Last season as well, Dhoni struggled. He managed 200 runs in 14 games at a strike rate of 116.27. The legend’s batting has gone into permanent decline mode and it seems rather improbable that he can work his way up at this stage of his career.
Dhoni knows when to walk away
Good timing has been one of Dhoni’s key companions throughout his cricketing career – be it with the bat in hand, as captain or behind the stumps. He retired from Test cricket at the end of 2014 when he knew he was no longer good enough either as a leader or player in the longer format. Then, with two years left for the 2019 World Cup, Dhoni promptly gave up the captaincy in the limited-overs format and played the role of guide to Virat Kohli and the youngsters in white-ball cricket. He aided Kohli throughout as keeper and senior pro and had a key part to play in the development of spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, constantly giving them key hints from behind the stumps.
With the mega auction to be held ahead of IPL 2022, there is little chance of CSK retaining Dhoni. He has been with the team since its inception, along with the tournament itself. However, MSD will be turning 41 next year and although he remains reasonably fit behind the wickets and is still sharp as captain, CSK won’t want a captain who would be a liability with the bat. Well aware of the situation, expect Dhoni to quietly walk away, like he did while announcing his international retirement.
His decision to turn mentor a hint of things to come
Finally, Dhoni’s decision to accept BCCI’s offer to turn mentor for Team India during the T20 World Cup is a clear indication that the former captain is looking at life beyond the cricket ground. Having observed Dhoni over the years, it doesn’t seem like he will take to full-time coaching. Instead, he would prefer spending time at his farmhouse with his family. Whenever needed though he will step in to aid the youngsters. In a sense, Dhoni turning mentor is symbolic of his playing career coming to an end.