Dubai: Mahendra Singh Dhoni, simply ‘Thala’ (meaning brother in Tamil) for his countless fans at the Chennai Super Kings, is not usually known to betray his emotions during his long and illustrious career. If the sight of him breaking down after being run out during India’s dramatic semi-final loss to New Zealand at the ICC World Cup was a rare occasion, so was his admission at a promotional TV show on IPL as to what CSK actually means to him.
“This journey started in 2008, CSK has helped me improve in everything - whether it was being a human being or being a cricketer, handling situations that are tough both in and out of the field and how to be humble once you are doing well,” Dhoni said while speaking on ‘Return of the Lion’ show on a private channel.
It was no surprise then that a sizeable crowd had gathered at the M.A.Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Tuesday as Dhoni, captain of the yellow shirts for 10 of the 12 seasons so far (barring two years of their ban from IPL), entered the nets to get back into business after a long gap of around six to seven months. Suresh Raina, his vice-captain and another Chennai loyalist, hugged him and Dhoni tonked a few of the net spinners for those trademark sixes as well.
Every move that ‘MSD’ makes this season will be closely followed - as it’s certainly his final year in international cricket - while his IPL future is still anybody’s guess. N.Srinivasan, owner of India Cements - the franchise owners and a former strongman of Indian board as well as the world governing body - had emphatically tweeted sometime back that Dhoni would be very much of their plans in 2021 as well.
Commenting on the ‘Thala’ title bestowed on him by the CSK fans, the much-decorated former Indian captain said: ‘Thala’ basically means brother, so for me, it’s more the abstract of the fans, the love and affection towards me is the reflection of that. Whenever I am in Chennai or down South they never call me by my name they address me as ‘Thala’ and the moment someone calls me Thala they are showing their love and respect but at the same time he is a CSK fan,” he added.
Dhoni has so far played 190 IPL matches (including two editions for Rising Pune Supergiants) and has scored 4,432 runs, including 23 half centuries. The 38-year-old has won three IPL trophies with CSK, besides two Champions League titles in 2010 and 2014.
Meanwhile, former India batting coach Sanjay Bangar felt Dhoni will be fresh and raring to go after having a break of almost seven-eight months and would be looking to win another IPL edition for his franchise.
“It is tough to find the rhythm initially but it can also be a huge advantage because when you are playing international cricket, the amount of pressure that you are under, you sort of get into a tunnel vision with regard to various responsibility and the needs of the team,” said Bangar.
“So from a player perspective if he (Dhoni) has taken a break for 6-7 months, he has a good chance to rediscover, refresh and reinvent,” he added.