The long wait of two years is finally over. Mahendra Singh Dhoni returns to his own kingdom – the Chennai Super Kings (CSK), the very place where he started and spent a major part of his Indian Premier League (IPL) career.
After spending two years with the Rising Pune Supergiants, the King will now take back the reigns of his kingdom. And the people, who have awaited his return, will embrace him with open arms despite knowing that their King is not the same brutal warrior prince that he once used to be.
Even factors like his waning abilities (with increasing age), inability to finish off games for India in the recent times, and even the poor run of form during the last two years of the IPL, haven't been enough to make him an unwanted entity.
Dhoni will still get the same love and warmth from the CSK fans that he used to get a couple of years back. And it is exactly this love and affection that is drawing him back to the place which is no less than home to him. His fans are standing by his side like family. They firmly believe that he will find his mojo back, and will lead CSK to great heights once again. Everyone remembers how his association with the franchise began and how, with time, it turned into an unbreakable bond.
Beginning of the Legacy
The year was 2008, and the memories of the first-ever T20 World Cup victory in 2007 were still fresh as the country looked forward to the inaugural edition of the IPL.
The league was going to be the first of its kind in the country, and in the world. With a huge number of active international stars participating in the tournament, it was going to be something very extravagant, exciting and attractive.
Meanwhile, all eyes were on MS Dhoni – the inaugural T20 World Cup-winning captain. All the eight franchises were after him but only one succeeded to acquire his services, making him the most expensive player of that edition with a signing amount of 1.5 million US dollars. It was none other than the Chennai Super Kings who signed him up to lead the franchise with hopes that he will succeed in the same way he did with a young Indian squad the year before.
And the rest, as we all know, is history!
Chennai, Dhoni’s Second Home
Ten years down the line, Dhoni has two IPL and two Champions League titles to his name (both while captaining CSK). Add to that his record of leading the team to the play-offs in each and every edition until 2015. Moreover, one should not forget the number of times he led CSK to the finals – six, the most by any team. Four of those occasions were in consecutive editions (2010 and 2013). This is what the man from Ranchi has achieved while leading the franchise all these years.
Until Dhoni’s arrival, it was none other than the Thalaiva Rajinikanth – an actor and style icon – who enjoyed undisputed followership, respect and a demigod-like status in the state of Tamil Nadu. No one else could match the aura, enigma and the respect that he used to get from the people in that state.
However, things changed with the rise of Dhoni as a CSK legend. Rajinikanth was no longer the undisputed king of people’s hearts. People had embraced the man from Ranchi as one of their own. The undivided attention that Rajinikanth used to get was a thing of the past now. There was a new prince in the state and all the people had embraced him wholeheartedly.
Broken Dreams, Nightmares and Heartbreaks
Year after year, everything was going tremendously well for the franchise. Dhoni’s stature as a legend was increasing day-by-day. However, things turned upside down for the fans and the franchise when it was suspended for two years after the 2015 edition because of spot-fixing allegations against one of the owners.
This period was quite an emotional time for the CSK fans. It was heartbreaking for them to see their team out of the IPL and their favourite ‘Captain Cool’ playing for another franchise – the Rising Pune Supergiants. There was no assurance if he would be returning to CSK once their suspension got over.
Moreover, it was heartbreaking for them to see the way he was treated in the RPS contingent by the owners. He was removed from his captaincy duties during the 2017 edition and one of the co-owners Harsh Goenka even mocked him with derogatory tweets during the course of the tournament. The respect Dhoni enjoyed while he was a part of the CSK family seemed like a distant dream now.
However, with the 2017 edition being over, CSK is now back within the frame of things.
Although the franchise had to spend two years in exile, it is back now with the same man at the helm of things, with a team promising to be stronger than ever.
Smiles are back on the faces of the CSK fans and they are eagerly waiting for the season to start.
The King is back again after his exile. He is right back where he belongs to. And the fans are preparing in full force for his homecoming. They are going to welcome him in a manner which is larger than life. The scenes will be quite unimaginable when the captain walks back into the field in the team colours, in the opening encounter against defending champions Mumbai Indians, on 7 April at the iconic Wankhede Stadium.
Even though it isn't a home game for CSK, a large number of fans in yellow will turn up to make it a day worth remembering.
In fact, it’s not just the fans, the King himself is absolutely stoked, excited and thrilled to return to his kingdom.
I never thought of playing for any other franchise other than CSK. Chennai is my second home. Fans here have adopted me as one of their own... A lot of people approached me, I can tell you that. But I can’t think of not coming back to CSK. What we have been through, how we have conducted ourselves, how the management has been, how the fans have been. This is a special place. So that thought of being in any other franchise was never a question.MS Dhoni to PTI in January, 2018
No one expects much from him considering that he is already 36 years of age. But the love, support and the respect from the fans, team management and his fellow players can work wonders for him. It can be the start of a totally new chapter and a whole new legacy as he must be feeling stronger than ever, being surrounded by so many people who support him.
(Prasenjit Dey is a freelance cricket writer. He can be reached at @CricPrasen. The opinions expressed are the author’s own and The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)