MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina (credit: Twitter)
New Delhi: The future of MS Dhoni as a Chennai Super Kings player has been the subject of intense discussion ever since he retired from international cricket in August 2020.
With many believing that IPL 2023 could be the last time Dhoni will be playing in the tournament, Chennai’s matches in and out of Chepauk have turned into an incredible sea of yellow, as many wait to watch the maverick wicketkeeper-batter in action.
Suresh Raina, former India cricketer and a four-time IPL winner with Chennai, revealed that Dhoni said to him in a post-game conversation after beating Mumbai Indians by six wickets that he intends to play for another year after winning the trophy.
“Woh toh bol rahe hain mein trophy jeet ke ek saal aur khelunga (He was saying that after winning the IPL trophy, I will play one more year). But he’s looking good and is batting really well. Plus, there’s a good team combination now and as many can see, there’s always a Dhoni ki paathshaala (the Dhoni masterclass) after the end of the post-game presentation ceremony.”
“You can see a lot of players are learning a lot from him. But it’s his call depending on how he feels his body is going; based on that he will take a call (on his future). Through the knowledge of spending time with him, I think he should play another year,” said Raina, an IPL expert for JioCinema, in a select virtual interaction.
Quizzed on who could be Dhoni’s successor once he decides to hang up his boots, Raina picked opener Ruturaj Gaikwad as future Chennai skipper, while noting that he’s making big improvements as a player this year.
Gaikwad shot into limelight by becoming the leading run-getter in IPL 2021 with 635 runs as Chennai won their fourth trophy. In IPL 2023, Gaikwad has amassed 384 runs in ten innings, averaging 42.67 and forming a solid opening pair with Devon Conway.
“He’s been looking solid, very calm and wants to win a trophy for MS Dhoni, something which he had said earlier. He’s been looking pumped up and working really hard. His bat speed has improved a lot and if one remembers the way he has hit sixes in the last game, he just eased into it.”
“Every time he has looked to time the ball, he is in a different zone altogether. His fielding has improved a lot, plus he thinks like a proper batter, and captain. I would say he’s a future CSK captain as he’s taking a lot of responsibility and I won’t be surprised if he’s captaining CSK after two-three years,” he added.
Another factor which has propelled Chennai to amass big totals in IPL 2023 has been Shivam Dube thriving in his role of the designated six-hitter, especially against the spinners, though he did leave people in awe while hitting sixes off Kagiso Rabada and a monstrous 111m hit against Harshal Patel.
Making use of his tall height, and long reach, Dube has smashed 24 sixes in the tournament till now, and is just behind Faf du Plessis, which sums up how well he has fitted in his role at Chennai.
“He’s been batting really well. Before the matches, MS Dhoni must have given him a role that you need to take a couple of balls and just go hard on the spinners. Everyone is talking about his hitting ability as a spinner, but he is also hitting so far against the fast bowlers too.”
“He’s improved as a batter and is taking a lot of responsibility by giving CSK 30-40 extra runs. He’s all pumped up, works really hard on his game, and has the backing of management to him and Ajinkya Rahane.”
“Both play for Mumbai and are gelling and batting really well. But Shivam Dube is full of self-belief and is in the game awareness zone. He’s hitting sixes mostly on the front side. He’s been hitting sixes straight and is connecting well, something which has really impressed me,” concluded Raina.