MS Dhoni returns to the cricket field 436 days and 34 days after bidding goodbye to international cricket. The 39-year-old is back as Chennai Super Kings gear up to face Mumbai Indians in the opening match of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
436 days feels like an eternity as a lot has changed in the world since that fateful run-out in Manchester. When MS Dhoni walks out, leading the Chennai Super Kings in Abu Dhabi, there won’t be a sea of yellow chanting his name from the stands. Only empty stands will greet the returning Super King.
Nonetheless, the off-field buzz has been hitting the roof. Ardent MS Dhoni fans have come up with tributes and countdowns ahead of the much-anticipated IPL 2020 opener. They couldn’t have asked for a better match-up to mark the occasion as Dhoni and CSK take on their arch-rivals Mumbai Indians.
Dhoni trained with the Territorial Army in Jammu and Kashmir right after the World Cup. During the long sabbatical, the former captain holidayed on snow-capped mountains, did some catching practice with his pet dogs, assembled bikes, and even drove tractors but stayed away from the 22 yards.
With very little match practice under his belt, the seasoned campaigner returns to a highly-competitive field, this time in an unfamiliar and more demanding environment.
The recent developments in the Chennai Super Kings camp have not made it any easier for their skipper. CSK began training later than the rest of the teams after they were forced to extend quarantine over Covid-19 concerns. ‘Chinna Thala’ Suresh Raina and senior off-spinner Harbhajan Singh pulled out, disrupting the ‘core unit’ that CSK have always banked on for success.
While CSK have the depth to cover their bases, Raina’s absence certainly comes as a big blow. While they will miss an ever-dependable left-handed batsman at the top, the energy he brings to the field will be missed. Harbhajan’s absence means CSK will be without a proven off-spinner in conditions that are expected to be conducive for the slower bowlers.
CSK have finished in the top 4 every single time they have played the IPL but, for the first time, for the very first time, a few are doubting their play-offs credentials.
Nonetheless, Chennai Super Kings aren’t too worried, it seems. Dhoni is fresh and ready to go, says their coach. The team management believes ‘Thalaivan’ will take care of himself and the team in the UAE.