MS Dhoni, the Captain, Leader, and Legend

MS Dhoni captained Chennai Super Kings to a fourth IPL title on Friday.

4 min read
MS Dhoni, the Captain, Leader, and Legend

As the curtains were drawn on the theatre of Indian Premier League, MS Dhoni walked up to the stumps with a quiet smile of content spilling out of the edges of his content visage. In that moment Dhoni was cementing his legacy not only as a captain of the most beloved franchise in Indian sport but also its legendary conductor, the man at the helm of a symphony that has brought to Chennai four glittering golden IPL trophies and countless passionate followers.

At the end of the first eliminator, one of those many million followers was standing on the balcony of the stadium, awash in her own tears of joy. Dhoni, aware of his surroundings, as he always is, threw a signed ball at her, making the evening special for the little girl and her family.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>MS Dhoni after CSK won IPL 2021</p></div>

MS Dhoni after CSK won IPL 2021

Image: BCCI


Dhoni’s instinct for cricket and everything inside the colosseum of the sport has defined his relationship with the sport and its fans. But the greatest aspect of his relationship with cricket has been an uncanny ability to stitch a team together, marshal its resources and extract from them moments of mad brilliance.

He showed that once again, going against the grain at a critical moment in the first eliminator as the Chennai Super Kings were on the edge against an inspired effort from the Delhi Capitals.

Dhoni was facing plenty of flak for his batting in this edition of the IPL. A 100 days past his 40th birthday, the Ranchi ranger has been far from his best form. If the move backfired against the Capitals, Dhoni would have faced even more criticism besides jeopardising the team’s prospects. But he put all of those thoughts aside, backed himself, took the responsibility and delivered with a six-ball 18 that secured the CSK a spot in the final for a ninth time in the IPL.

It is this instinctive approach to cricket and leadership that has been the enduring characteristic of his approach to his profession. He has used that intuitive ability to the hilt in backing talent, nurturing his team and building a franchise that has quickly turned into an institution in modern franchise sport, particularly in India.

Above all, the experience that stands out most with Dhoni is his confidence and how that rubs off on the team, with him being at the heart of it all.

A lot has already been said of the inspired moments leading to the final over in the 2007 T20 World Cup, when Dhoni entrusted Joginder Sharma to deliver the trophy for India. It was one of those iconic moments in Indian cricket that will play on repeat for many years. The decision symbolises the kind of confident energy that Dhoni emanates for his team. Even in the heat of major competition Dhoni is able to process the complex puzzle of the game, isolate its variables and find the weapons needed to deal with them.

At the end of the rare unsuccessful campaign in 2020, Dhoni assured the CSK fans that the team will be back. On Saturday night, they were not just back. They climbed the summit with a consummate victory over a resurgent Kolkata Knight Riders with a commanding performance, despite being at the wrong end of a toss that was considered a vital ingredient.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>MS Dhoni after the match against Delhi Capitals.</p></div>

MS Dhoni after the match against Delhi Capitals.

Image: BCCI

“As a player, he absorbed pressure, he never panicked,” explained Dwayne Bravo after the disappointing performance in 2020. “He always gave the players belief and confidence to do whatever they had to do,” said the 36-year-old West Indian player, one of Dhoni’s soldiers in the CSK setup.

Dhoni’s willingness to back the youngsters has been a vital ingredient in the success of the CSK franchise. The emergence of Ruturaj Gaikwad, who snatched the Purple Cap from KL Rahul with some decisive batting in the last two games of the IPL is another example of the results borne out of Dhoni’s approach to team management.

"The confidence to score freely has been injected by Dhoni,” commented Sandeep Chavan, who coaches Ruturaj. “Apart from Dhoni, Raina and Rayudu have also been helping him.”

“Ruturaj tells me this big thing about Dhoni and his team that if you perform well, they will appreciate you, but if you are not able to perform, they will treat you in the same way. They won't let you feel that you had a bad outing in the middle. That's the best thing about CSK,” elaborated Ruturaj in a recent interaction with the media.

Even though there was plenty of conversation about the retirement after a difficult campaign in 2020, Dhoni kept his head and focused on the job at hand. The spectacular fashion in which he revived the fortunes of his team once again brought him to a similar junction with Harsha Bhogle, immediately after the final in Dubai.

“You can be proud of the legacy you have left behind,” suggested Bhogle.

“Still I haven’t left behind,” signed off Dhoni to a burst of cheeky laughter. Perhaps there are a few more pages in his story of inspired leadership crafted in the coals of Jharkhand.

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