Skipper Dhoni’s tactic – at times controversial – sealed the deal again on Tuesday as CSK beat imagined Gujarat Titans by 15 points to book a place in Sunday’s final at the world’s biggest stadium in Ahmedabad.
With his finishing skills on the wane, a dodgy knee and his place in the batting order increasingly difficult to justify, Dhoni repeatedly hinted that his retirement was imminent.
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Dhoni again kept fans guessing, saying on Tuesday he would take until the IPL 2024 auction in December to make his final decision.
“I will always be there for CSK, whether in player form or sitting somewhere,” he said.
“I don’t really know. But frankly, it’s expensive.”
Victory on Sunday against Mumbai, Lucknow or Gujarat – depending on which playoffs remain – would be a fitting final achievement for a player who is second only to Sachin Tendulkar in fan adulation in India.
Hard-hitting and always unflappable, India’s most successful skipper goes by many nicknames including ‘Captain Cool’ and ‘Thala’, which means ‘leader’ in Tamil.
First and foremost, he’s a quintessential running powerhouse and finisher, but it’s Dhoni’s style and humble beginnings that set him apart, and that was enough for a Bollywood biopic.
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Dhoni spent her early years in a cramped one-bedroom government apartment in Ranchi provided by her gas station attendant father’s employer.
Young Dhoni was fond of sports and honed his skills by playing tennis ball cricket and borrowing bats and other equipment from friends.
At his father’s insistence, he took a job with Indian Railways, but the hectic routine of juggling collecting tickets and playing cricket eventually set him free.
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In 2004 Dhoni made his India debut and in 2007 he succeeded Rahul Dravid as India’s one-day captain, leading the national side to the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in Africa the same year. from South.
In 2008 Dhoni became Test captain and won two home series against Australia, and in 2011 he won the 50-year-old World Cup in India with a sumptuous and compelling six.
Along the way – with constant changes in hairstyle from shaggy to spiky to clean-shaven – numerous endorsements have seen Dhoni become one of the highest-paid athletes in world sport, earning an estimated $31 million in 2015.
But Dhoni stunned the cricketing world when he quit the five-day format in 2014 after finishing with 27 wins from 60 Tests as skipper.
Dhoni left the captaincy in 2017 under the guise of grooming Virat Kohli as a leader, but continued to play an important role in the team’s decision-making process.
Dhoni’s last appearance for India came in their semi-final loss to New Zealand at the 2019 ODI World Cup.
Dhoni then briefly served in an army reserve unit, where he is an honorary lieutenant colonel, before announcing his international retirement.
But Dhoni hasn’t left the IPL, at least not yet.
Dhoni captained CSK in the inaugural IPL in 2008 and led the franchise to nine finals and four wins, most recently in 2021.
“There is no CSK without Dhoni and there is no Dhoni without CSK,” N.Srinivasanthe industrialist who owns the franchise, said after the 2021 triumph.
For Chennai fans – who go wild when he strides out to hit and cheer every ball – Dhoni is their one and only leader and his retirement would be a tragedy.
“They won’t let him retire until he’s 75,” commentator Harsha Bhogle said on Cricbuzz.