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Mahendra Singh Dhoni has a huge fan following and the Chennai Super Kings skipper also enjoys the love shown towards him. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Mahendra Singh Dhoni has once again stoked the speculation on his future at the Chennai Super Kings home turf in Chepauk, saying ‘he is in the last phase of his career’ after a seven-wicket win over Sunrisers Hyderabad on Friday.

Chennai skipper Dhoni, who is adored by their ardent legion of fans as Thala (leader or head), gets nostalgic every time he plays at home, where the sea of yellow fans make him emotional. Chennai’s win in the MRC Nagar Derby, place of both teams’ headquarters in Chennai, enabled them to keep their home record intact.

Dhoni, during the prize presentation ceremony, said: “All said and done, it’s the last phase of my career, however long I play. After two years, the fans have had the opportunity to come here and watch, feels good to be here. Crowd has given us a lot of love and affection.”

Minimal chance to bat

It’s true that due to Dhoni’s age, at 41, he will not be able to continue playing for a long time. A new setback is the knee injury that he is carrying since the start of the Indian Premier League 2023 season. But the fans would love to see him continue to entertain them for many more years. His popularity is such, a few stands get filled to the brim to watch him train during the team’s practice sessions.

Dhoni has only played 20 balls in the three matches that has been held in Chennai so far, but in that limited time he has hit five sixes and one four to bring the fans on their feet.

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Dhoni takes a catch to dismiss Sunrisers skipper Aiden Markram in Chepauk on Friday. Image Credit: Source: IPL Twitter

Dhoni's new record

“I am not getting enough chances to bat, but no complaints. I was hesitant to bat second because I had that feeling there won’t be a lot of dew. Only when there are chances of dew, you have to bat second. The spinners bowled a very good length,” Dhoni added with a noisy crowd chanting his name throughout the contest.

Dhoni also set another record in Twenty20 when he surpassed South Africa’s Quinton de Kock to top the list for most catches in Twenty20. Dhoni took a tough catch to dismiss Sunrisers skipper Aiden Markram off Maheesh Theekshana for his 208th Twenty20 catch, while de Kock had 207. Dhoni, in jest, even complained that he was not given the best catch of the match during the presentation ceremony.

Former Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who has seen the love shown by the fans towards Dhoni from close quarters when they played together in Chennai Super Kings, calls Captain Cool as the biggest cricketer in India, saying no one has a bigger fanbase than Dhoni.

Proclaimed Dhoni fan

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, a proclaimed Dhoni fan, was present during the Friday’s match with his wife and son Udhayanidhi, who is also the Minister for Youth Welfare and Sports Development in the state.

“I have always planned my cricket. The last game that I played was in Ranchi. The last ODI… was at my hometown in Ranchi. So, hopefully, my last T20, it will be in Chennai...whether it’s next year or in five years’ time, we don’t know,” Dhoni said during the victory celebrations after Chennai Super Kings won their fourth title in 2021. So every time he steps on to the field the Chennai fans have a mixed feeling.

Reacting to that, Kasi Viswanathan, CEO of Chennai Super Kings, had told Gulf News that: “Dhoni decides on what he does, but we hope that last match comes after five years.”

That’s what every Chennai fan would also want to see.