The Ranchi-born World Cup-winning skipper arrived at the M Chidambaran Stadium in Chepauk, Chennai, for his first day of practice ahead of the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) 13th season. Some time, in the middle of his practice session, far away from prying eyes – considering the Chepauk facilities are inside a temporary bio-secure bubble and shut for all outsiders, Dhoni came out with the Instagram post – a collage of his Team India pictures and a song to go with it.
“Main pal do pal ka shayar hoon…” from the movie Kabhie Kabhie played as the post went viral within minutes while Dhoni’s long-time friend and teammate Suresh Raina also announced his retirement while replying to Dhoni’s Instagram post.
Senior executives at the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) franchise – Dhoni’s home for 13 years now outside of Team India and Jharkhand – too were left shocked after hearing about the post. “No idea where that one came from. But that’s MSD, isn’t it,” a senior CSK official said.
Some said, it was Dhoni’s way of announcing that the time had come for him to finally bid goodbye to his Team India stint and start concentrating on Chennai Super King’s build-up to this year’s IPL, thus spelling out his priorities. “T20 World Cup would’ve been ideal, but considering that’s not happening now, he’ll want to walk away with an IPL trophy for CSK,” those tracking developments said.
While the announcement itself comes across as a shocking one, given the abrupt, silent nature of his Instagram post, the timing is not such a surprising one. The wicket-keeper-batsman was expected to walk away from the game at the international level post the T20 World Cup in Australia, which has now been postponed. The T20 World Cup was supposed to be his final Team India commitment – with Dhoni looking to end his career in the same tournament that he first made his mark as a captain. “That was the original plan. He would prepare for the T20 World Cup by way of participating in the IPL and then go forward from there. All of that got disrupted by Covid,” say those in the know. “The commercial arrangements were due to arrive at a certain inflection point post the T20 World Cup and that would’ve eventually seen his exit anyway”.
A close friend of the cricketer couldn’t help but draw parallels with Dhoni’s last dismissal in an India jersey – falling short of the crease as the New Zealanders ran him out in the World Cup semi-final last year. “He just fell short of another proverbial crease because T20 was supposed to be his final swansong,” the friend added.
Considered one of the greatest finishers ever in white-ball cricket, Dhoni is most certainly expected to make this year’s IPL his last. Those who see the cricketer’s viewpoint insist that post-retirement, “MS can be expected to become part of the game’s administration at some level”. Dhoni, for all practical purposes, has been at the helm of the Super Kings franchise, managing the team, its commercials, the brand, while also leading the team successfully.
“All these years have allowed him to understand the game at multiple levels, from its operations and logistics to administration, the finances and all. He’ll be a ready product to take charge of the game’s administration at one level or the other, once he relieves himself from all cricketing responsibilities as a player,” sources add.