Dubai: There were a few major takeaways for Chennai Super Kings from their last game on Sunday - and one is not talking about redemption of some pride with a whopping nine-wicket win against Kings XI Punjab here. First one, which took the internet by storm, were just two words: ‘definitely not’ from captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni when asked during the toss if this was his last game in a yellow shirt.
There can be definitely a lot of slip between the cup and the lip when the CSK management go back to the drawing board - and even the most diehard of ‘Whistle Podu’ fans will admit that a big shake-up is needed in the composition and support staff of one of the most successful teams in the history of the league after a nightmarish campaign in the UAE. The sensitive question here is while MSD himself has sent out the feeler to N. Srinivasan, the patriarch of CSK, about his intentions to continue as a player - the decision ultimately rests on the boardroom of owners India Cements.
After the dust settles down on the IPL, speculation over Dhoni’s future with the CSK will begin in a few months’ time and Michael Vaughan, former England captain, added fuel to it when he said in a webinar for a cricket website that the iconic cricketer deserves a send-off in front of his fans - even if it means him playing in the 2022 season. Vaughan’s argument is if the IPL takes place again in the UAE next year behind closed doors - subject to the COVID-19 situation not improving appreciably in India - then Dhoni needs to play at least one match in the following year to give his fans an opportunity of bidding him adieu in flesh and blood.
The other positive from CSK’s last game was the 23-year-old Ruturaj Gaikwad making sure that his would be one of the first names that the team management pencils down when they start planning for the 2021 season. The Maharashtra opener, who on Sunday scored a third consecutive half-century to mastermind the CSK chase, is an absolute delight to watch and will go down as one of the ‘finds’ of IPL 2020.
The smiling visage hides the steel in the youngster, who showed great mental fortitude to fight a long bout of COVID-19, as he took longer to recover than teammate Deepak Chahar as it was three weeks before he tested negative for the virus.
‘‘We knew how good we was from the last two years and his pre-season in Chennai was outstanding. One of the disappointments was that he got sick and the fact that it (COVID-19) hung around for so long, people underestimate what it does to a player, mentally and physically. We tried to get him into the game really early on (against Rajasthan Royals on September 22) and looking back it was probably too soon. So it wasn’t a matter of not enough opportunity. We might have pushed him to get in there and he just wasn’t quite ready, physically,’ clarified CSK head coach Stephen Fleming.
Gaikwad ended unbeaten on 62 off 49 balls on Sunday, following up on scores of 65 not out and 72 in the last two matches, and helped CSK chase down a target of 154 with nine wickets and nearly two overs to spare at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
A total of 204 runs in just six matches, with an average of 51 and strike rate of 120.71, will however never reveal his the magnitude of his fight though.