Chennai Super Kings are at the bottom of the 2020 IPL points table, and a visibly disinterested MS Dhoni is at the centre of it all — make no mistake.
Though one can't blame Dhoni much for being disinterested, can one?
All these years he has been a top dog both at the international level as well as in the IPL. There is no bigger honour than playing for your country and Dhoni brought along the confidence of his India success into the IPL and enhanced his legend in no small measure.
IPL, in many ways, was a self-aggrandizing platform for him. And now that he is no longer an international cricketer, it appears the gilded league doesn't hold any attraction for him.
One can argue that other legends like Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist did lead their respective IPL teams to the trophy after all — post-retirement. But then in their case the IPL money was a big lure, which can't be a matter of much importance to an Indian superstar like Virat Kohli or Dhoni. Thanks to the massive following of the game in India and consequently heavy involvement of corporates and their exceptionally lucrative deals for local players, money cannot be the only driving force for an extremely successful Indian cricketer.
So the question is: why then Dhoni decided to play this year's IPL when his heart wasn't in it? Well from all appearances, it's out of gratitude towards the CSK owner, also a father figure to him. Yes, N Srinivasan. This is common knowledge Srinivasan played a big role in Dhoni's exaltation in Indian cricket. The big patriarch himself admitted recently that he provided unwavering support to Dhoni and used his special powers as BCCI president to save him in 2012 when the national selectors had made up their mind to strip the wicketkeeper-batsman of India captaincy.
Yes, other factors like the Coronavirus pandemic that confined players to their homes for months in fear without any real practice, and the last-minute pull-out of match-winners Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh may have also hurt CSK but Dhoni's apathy has been, most of all, the reason for this downward spiral.
A captain is as good as his team is a popular saying in the sporting world, however, in CSK's case it should be the other way round in view of Dhoni's influence at the franchise. They have been as good as good as their captain this year. He has failed as a batsman, as a wicketkeeper as well as a strategist and no wonder CSK find themselves down in the dumps, needing miracle performers now more than players in order to reach the play-offs. A sign of hopelessness, no?
In all likelihood, the last few matches of their campaign are also going to be last few competitive games for Dhoni. CSK and Dhoni fans... bad news for you. No rising of the phoenix from the ashes appears on the cards. No way can he overcome this indifference towards the game! The writing on the wall is legible. The great phoenix is done and dusted.
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