Chennai: It’s that time of the year when the city of Chennai turns yellow as Chennai Super Kings gears up for yet another glittering Indian Premier League season.
With just three weeks away for the 13th edition of the IPL to kickstart, the practice sessions of the men in yellow have just taken off in the MA Chidambaram Stadium that has got the Yellove Army fans going crazy as MS Dhoni touched down the city much earlier this year to make his return to the 22 yards after an eight-month hiatus.
As is the case for the past two years now ever since the return of CSK back into IPL after a two-year ban, numerous fans thronged the stadium to witness this year’s first practice session yesterday mainly to see the adopted son of the soil called dearly as ‘Thala’ get into the groove by hitting the white ball.
The Dhoni-led star-studded CSK is the most successful team in IPL as they have reached the playoffs every single season they have played. They have also finished runners up five times and won the title thrice. Last year they failed to defend the title by a whisker having lost the final against Mumbai Indians by just a run and now apart from Dhoni, players like Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, local lads Murali Vijay, N Jagadeesan, Sai Kishore, new arrival Piyush Chawla, have already started training early.
While the focus of the team is to win back the IPL trophy, this season is also important for Dhoni to stake his claim ti get back into the Indian team. Ever since, Dhoni’s sabbatical, India is yet to find a proper wicket-keeper as Rishabh Pant who was touted as the heir apparent to Dhoni lost his place in the limited-overs side after failing with both the bat and the gloves. KL Rahul is currently the first-choice keeper but it remains to be seen whether he could be a long-time solution as India’s premium wicket-keeper.
Dinesh Karthik, another wicket-keeping option has fallen out of the selector’s radar and Dhoni who is still invaluable behind the stumps, has a good chance to fill his own shoes ahead of the T20 World Cup later this year based on how he performs in the IPL,
Apart from his wicket-keeping, he will also be keenly watched for his abilities with the bat. While he enjoyed a good IPL last year, finishing the season as the highest run-scorer for CSK with 416 runs, his batting came under the scanner during the 2019 World Cup.
He was heavily criticised by many former players and cricket aficionados for his slow batting. While it is widely spoken that Dhoni’s skills as a finisher is slowly diminishing, based on his IPL performance in 2019, one can’t really say that as he maintained a healthy strike rate of 134.
However he is returning to full-fledged cricket after a long gap and if he finds his magical touch with the willow batting lower down the order, then he may well be in contention to return back to the national side. It’s Dhoni’s batting that will be looked upon much more keenly in this IPL than his keeping abilities and captaincy.
If all goes well, Indian fans might have a chance to see the former India captain wearing the blues during the T20 World Cup, probably for one last time.