MS Dhoni: Chennai’s ‘thala’ drives CSK to No 1 with a brilliant performance
MS Dhoni thanks the Chennai fans after CSK beat Delhi Capitals.© BCCI

MS Dhoni once again had an influential role to play for defending champions Chennai Super Kings on Wednesday at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in match 50 of IPL 2019, where he returned after missing the team’s last game with a stiff back.

Leading CSK, Dhoni first scored an unbeaten 44 off 22 balls with four fours and three sixes to take the total to 179/4 in 20 overs. Then, behind the stumps, Dhoni effected two stumpings as Delhi Capitals were bowled out for 99. His wicketkeeping was exceptional, in particular the split-second stumping off Delhi captain Shreyas Iyer.

This massive 80-run win put CSK back at the top of the IPL 2019 points table and gave the Chennai home fans a memorable farewell, for this was CSK’s last home game of the season.

Dhoni’s 44 not out took his season tally to 358 runs at an average of 119.33 and strike-rate of 142.62. After the win over DC, Dhoni was asked about his amazing strike-rate during the 20th over of IPL matches and his reply was simple: “Watch the ball, hit the ball“.

(READ: IPL 2019 points table, Orange Cap and Purple Cap holders latest standings)

The two matches he missed with a stiff back, the defending champions lost. What is it about Dhoni that energises CSK?

IPL 2019 points table latest standings
Chennai Super Kings finished their IPL 2019 league stage at home with a win. BCCI

In the IPL 2019 opener, Dhoni’s judgement of the MA Chidambaram surface was a game-changer, for he played four spinners and gave the ball to Harbhajan Singh upfront. The result was that Royal Challengers Bangalore were bowled out for 70.

(VIDEO: CSK beat DC by 80 runs, move to top spot)

Against Rajasthan Royals on March 31 in Chennai, Dhoni revived CSK from 27/3 and smashed his highest IPL score of 75 not out from 46 balls, while scoring 35 of the 60 runs CSK managed in their final three overs.

Against Kings XI Punjab on April 6, Dhoni hit 37 not out off 23 balls to help CSK to 160/3, which proved more than enough for victory. In the reverse match with Rajasthan, Dhoni made 58 off 43 balls before he was dismissed in the last over of a thriller, which also saw him loose his cool and walk onto the field.

When CSK met RCB on April 21, Dhoni surpassed his previous best in the IPL by scoring 84* off 48 balls, with five fours and seven sixes, in a one-run loss.

CSK have one match remaining, versus KXIP in Mohali on May 5. If they win, and Delhi lose their last game, it will confirm CSK as No 1 on the points table heading into the IPL playoffs.

And Dhoni knows a lot about how to win matches in the IPL playoffs.