Dubai: The distance between the team hotels of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli in Dubai is nearly a good 14 kms, almost at different ends of the city. While Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings have preferred Taj Dubai at the heart of the city and next to Burj Khalifa, world’s tallest tower, Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore opted for a sea-front property in Waldorf Astoria.
It has not happened too often during the past decade when Kohli’s international career coincided with the peak of MSD’s career that they were staying miles apart in the same city, barring the two months of IPL every year. However, the duo will be grabbing all the eyeballs in the coming weeks as they prepare for the 13th edition of IPL - while the third of the larger-than-life superstars - Rohit Sharma will be trying to shake off all the rustiness in the sanctuary of St Regis Sadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi.
The mutual admiration between Kohli, the greatest batsman of this generation, and Dhoni - India’s most successful captain - always looked genuine during their time together in the international arena. It was a symbiotic relationship as the support that Dhoni received in the twilight years of his career among the ‘Men in Blue’ from the current deity of Indian cricket was there for all to see - while the elder statesman of the Indian team was always at hand with a word of advice with field placements, instructions to the bowlers and other dressing room inputs.
‘‘You will always be my captain,’’ an emotional Kohli said in social media the day Dhoni retired, recalling many of the highs of Indian cricket that they shared together.
Now, that was then. As the two stepped to a six-day quarantine in their respective hotels, Dhoni is no longer under any obligation to play the big brother of the Indian cricketers and will be all focused to give the yellow shirts their money’s worth with a fourth IPL title and touch Rohit Sharma’s record. Kohli, on the other hand, will be desperately seeking to set right this anomaly of not having won a single IPL title to his already much decorated career.
Standing on the other side of the fence against the biggest brand in the game in this IPL, the 39-year-old Dhoni - ever the pragmatist - will be in a much more relaxed frame of mind. Keeping aside his awesome record in international cricket, Dhoni has nothing more prove in view of his record as a finisher and a captain with Chennai Super Kings - forging a closely bonded combination which revels on their ‘Dad’s Army’ tag and continues to prove their doubters wrong time and again.
Just ponder this, his team was actually short of one run against Mumbai Indians from winning their fourth title last year - which could have given them back-to-back titles for the second time.
Compare this to Kohli’s record in the Royal Challengers Bangalore shirt - his exasperation of failing to win the title even once often gets the better of him. In an Instagram chat with good friend and RCB teammate AB de Villiers in the earlier days of lockdown, Kohli admitted that ‘‘pressure’’ does build up in him at not having won the title even once.
“I can never think of leaving this team. To have that loyalty. Till I am playing IPL, I am never leaving this team. We know we both want to win a title,” Kohli said recently, referring to his association with De Villiers.
There is still nearly three months to go before we know the answer - and we will wait to see who among Dhoni or Kohli has the last laugh!