IPL 2021 – MS Dhoni’s last IPL? The longevity or “shell life’ of a captain or a ‘superstar player’ has often been a subject of debate and has come under the radar of critics, pundits and fans umpteen times as none of the Indian ‘cricketing greats’, barring Sunil Gavaskar, could perhaps ‘perfect’ their retirement time.
Will IPL 2021 be Dhoni’s last IPL ? With the 14th edition of IPL closing in for a take-off, the rumour mills have again started working overtime with speculations that 2021 could well be the last time MS Dhoni one of the most successful Indian and IPL captain in history, be seen in action in IPL.
InsideSport reached out to some of the members of Dhoni’s franchise, some of his former teammates – but no one has a definitive answer & knowing Dhoni no one ever will other than the boss himself.
But there is a logical assumption behind this speculation and many speculations have indeed come true. First let’s see what he said after his IPL 2020 campaign –
“May be they thought I’m retiring – you know retired from international cricket, may be I’ll retire form the shortest form also,”Dhoni jokingly told Harsha Bhogle after the Super Kings’ win. When Bhogle checked to confirm whether that was actually going to happen, with a smile and a nod, Dhoni said: “definitely not.”
Will this “Definitely Not” – continue for 1 more season for Dhoni?
Former India players like Madan Lal, Maninder Singh and Mohinder Amarnath believe that this could well be the last time but all will depend on the man himself. The former India players do not see why MS Dhoni should drag on his IPL career beyond 2021 as there seems to be little dividend or reasons for him to continue.
Why 2021 could be Dhoni’s last IPL ?
Reason 1: His retirement from international cricket and non participation in domestic cricket means, Dhoni will be without competitive cricket after the completion of IPL for a whole year. It will be an uphill task for the CSK captain to maintain the high fitness standards and an equivalent form without playing any cricket.
Reason 2: CSK is an aging team and last year’s performance was a testimony to this fact. There is murmur within the franchisee to opt for a full fledged overhaul in the next IPL auction. In such a scenario with an infusion of fresh and young blood, Dhoni’s presence in the CSK dressing room or dug out area may not be a picture perfect moment.
And at 39, one wonders is MS Dhoni not a ‘spent force’?
Reason 3: His form will be big debate in IPL 2021 – A look at his last IPL performance in 2020 leads us to believe in that direction. In 14 matches, Dhoni scored just 200 runs with an average of 25. His highest score was 47 and most importantly strike rate fell to an abysmal 116.7 (meaning scoring at 7 runs per over). Coming at middle or lower middle order, where one is required to finish off the job and play at a brisk rate of 9 to 10 runs per over, this strike rate of 7 runs is a pale shadow of the great finisher that once he was.
Dhoni appears to be among a select few in the history of Indian cricket, along with the three greats — Gavaskar-Kapil-Tendulkar who enjoyed a special status or the privilege to decide time of calling it quits. But unlike the previous greats, Dhoni perhaps knows exactly when to hang his boots.
Dhoni had surprised many when he chose to “liberate himself” on the Independence Day last year. But the logic was simple. There was not much ODI or T20 international cricket for the next few months and Dhoni was not playing domestic cricket anymore, putting selectors in a tight spot. But Dhoni’s ‘larger than the game’ status ensured that no selectors could tell him that it was about time.