Irfan Pathan has predicted that MS Dhoni will be the player to watch out for this season and even went on to say that it would be a Dhoni of the pre-captaincy era in Indian cricket. He also opined that the team which would bat spinners well would finish as the top-four teams in the Middle East.
At the age of 39, MS Dhoni continues to be the central point of CSK’s success, with his batting still reigning terror amongst the bowlers. Dhoni would walk into this season on the back of scoring 416 runs for the Chennai-based side, at an average of 83.20, striking the ball at 134.62. Just prior to the IPL season, however, the former Indian skipper announced his retirement from international cricket, which would mean that all his focus would be on winning the 2020 IPL.
Former Indian all-rounder Irfan Pathan, who has been a victim of Dhoni’s power-hitting during his time with the Kings XI Punjab franchise, predicted that the right-hander would be the player to watch out for his season. In the absence of Suresh Raina, the Jharkhand man would have to step in and fill the shoes with his performance for the three-time IPL winning franchise.
“All the bowlers, please watch out! Be careful when you are bowling against Mahendra Singh Dhoni. We might see the Dhoni that we saw before he became the (India) captain. Before he became the captain, he didn't have that extra responsibility, so he used to play freely. As I say in Hindi, "Woh bebaak hoke khelega (he will play uninhibitedly)," Irfan Pathan said TOI in an exclusive.
“If that happens, the bowlers will lose control. So it's very difficult for all the bowlers to get going against Dhoni. Don't look at his age, don't look at that he hasn't played cricket for so long. Don't look at all those things. He will be the player to watch out for this season and I am pretty certain as well that we might see Dhoni bludgeoning the bowlers and playing freely, the way he used to before he became the captain. I totally expect that,” he added.
Pathan also made a note of the conditions in the Middle East, wherein he proclaims that the pitches would be prepared to be better suited for slower bowlers. However, at the same time, the former all-rounder added that batsmen would be key, especially handling the pressure thrown by the spinners during the middle overs.
“Expectation is there that it will be a slow track, a lot of spinners will come into play; but the team whose batting is very well equipped against spinners, that team will have a really good chance to come in top four (playoffs).”
The 35-year-old also was sure of Mumbai and Chennai performing well, despite the conditions being starkly different from home. He also went on to add that CSK might face difficulty replacing the likes of Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh but would still make it to the playoffs.
“Obviously you can never take Mumbai Indians out of any IPL, wherever you play, but not playing in Mumbai, that's a disadvantage for them. About CSK, a lot of people talk about the age (of their players), a lot of people talk about their fitness and many things every year. That's a question every year and then they come in and go through to the playoffs.”