Kolkata: Will Chennai Super Kings be the same force with their ‘Thalaiva’ Mahendra Singh Dhoni as captain? It’s a question which seems to be riding on the minds of legion of his admirers, more so for the ‘Yellove’ fans as one of the most successful franchises kick off their campaign against Kolkata Knight Riders in the opening match of the 15th edition of Indian Premier League 2022 in Mumbai on Saturday.
The shock among the fans is understandable as the iconic Chennai captain has come up with yet another surprise move - so typical of him. Be it the way he stepped down from Test captaincy as well as the longer format of the game in Australia, or the captaincy of the white ball formats at one go and last but not the least - retirement from international cricket with an Instagram clipping of his favourite old Hindi song of Mukesh?
With the benefit of hindsight, his decision to step down from IPL captaincy and hand it to Ravindra Jadeja seems a more and logical one if one can keep the sentimentality aside. Like all good things, the Dhoni era at the CSK had to come to an end and there couldn’t have been a better timing than the beginning of a new cycle - and this also marks the beginning of Dhoni 2.0 with the four-time champions.
There is an uncanny similarity in Dhoni’s latest move with that of his in the Indian team - he will be at hand as a mentor-player to hand-hold Jadeja during the arduous journey of his debut season as captain. This is the role he played for Virat Kohli in grooming him as a leader in all formats and so strong was his influence that a number of Indian spinners (namely, Kuldeep Yadav) often rued missing his guidance from behind the stumps on what line to bowl.
How good a captain will Jadeja be? There seems to be apprehension in a few quarters that he has not even led in first class cricket for his state team Saurashtra - which is led by veteran Test batter Cheteshwar Pujara. However, at 33 and with almost a decade’s experience of international cricket behind him, Jadeja seemed a natural choice to be a leader and can be at the helm for a good five years.
“Jadeja, who has been an integral part of Chennai Super Kings since 2012, will only be the third player to lead CSK,” the team said in a statement. “Dhoni will continue to represent Chennai Super Kings this season and beyond.”
The team ethos of Chennai, which always revolved working around a core group of Indian talent, certainly had them looking at an Indian player as the leader who could grow into the role and not a short term solution - and this certainly ruled out someone like Moeen Ali - who had filled in as England’s T20 skipper in the past as an option.
“This match (Saturday) will be a momentous occasion as the 15th edition of the IPL will welcome the fans back to the stadiums after a brief hiatus owing to the pandemic,” the BCCI said in a statement.
In what will be a rematch of last season’s final, the Knights will have a chance to avenge last year’s defeat under a new captain in Shreyas Iyer and set an early momentum for themselves.
Catch the match
Chennai Super Kings vs Kolkata Knight Riders
Venue: Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
From: 6 pm UAE time