In terms of appeal and fan-following, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli have been the leaders among cricketers for more than a decade. The willingness to go the extra mile, while representing national team or IPL franchises, have endeared them to almost every cricket enthusiast across the country and beyond.
The entire cricket fraternity was in disbelief when Chennai Super Kings broke the news on Thursday (March 24) afternoon that MS Dhoni will no longer be their captain in the Indian Premier League (IPL). A similar scenario did happen last year as well when Virat Kohli, still in a critical phase of his career, decided to relinquish Royal Challengers Bangalore’s (RCB) captaincy midway during the 2nd leg of the season.
Notably, Dhoni and Kohli have led their respective IPL franchises more than anyone else. While ‘Captain Cool’ ended his IPL captaincy, predominantly at CSK, with four titles and with a 59.6 percent winning percentage (121 wins in 204 matches), RCB’s winning percentage under ‘King’ Kohli read 48.16 (64 wins in 140 matches). However, as they echo ‘ring out the old, ring in the new,’ these were bound to happen.
You deserve all the praise for doing an incredible job as a captain, leading the side to such great heights.— SportsCafe (@IndiaSportscafe) March 24, 2022
It’s been an absolute honour to watch you lead.
Thank you, Captain!#ThankYouDhoni #ChennaiSuperKings #CSK #MSDhoni #IPL2022 pic.twitter.com/HCF04HA05L
Of course, there were periodic murmurings regarding Dhoni’s future at CSK, considering his age (40) creeping up on him. But ever since IPL’s inception in 2008, they have enjoyed sustained success under one man, despite having a history of retaining the vast majority of their squad. In fact, barring the 2020 season, CSK reached the knockout stages in every IPL edition they participated in under Dhoni’s leadership, with the average league position predictably highest (2.67) as well.
On the other hand, Kohli’s RCB struggled to exploit, largely because of their mismanagement. They did not utilise their local state players enough, and the complexities inherent at auctions does not help them either. Still, Kohli played his part, aggregating 6,283 runs at a strike rate of 129.94, but unfortunately, it was not enough to inspire his side to win the coveted trophy for once.
Now, with the old guards, one way or another, having passed batons to others ahead of the impending IPL season to manage their workloads, what is next for Dhoni and Kohli?
With the latest developments, many have even started predicting that the 2022 IPL edition will be Dhoni’s last. But you never know, as the charismatic cricket icon never fails to surprise. As of now, keeping the first cycle of a ten-team tournament in mind, Dhoni has decided to vacate his captaincy throne at ‘Dad’s Army’ for Ravindra Jadeja, giving the latter ample time to learn the ropes by holding him along the way.
Kohli’s journey as RCB captain, however, came to an end as exactly opposite to Dhoni. He made the best of his incredible form once, but now is having a comparatively leaner patch. His 405 runs in IPL 2021 at a questionable strike rate of 119.46 was miles behind his lofty standards, although his unforeseen call of giving up on the captaincy came before the season’s end.
RCB has appointed the 37-year-old South African Faf du Plessis as Kohli’s successor at the RCB. Surely, it was not a long-term replacement at the helm, like Jadeja at CSK. Du Plessis has a lot of expertise in captaincy, whether that is for clubs or country, and it would ease the pressure from Kohli to primarily focus on his batting techniques.
Under Dhoni, the ‘Yellow Army’ has reached new heights with time. Besides winning the IPL four times, they won the Champions Trophy twice, in 2010 and 2014. Dhoni’s numbers with the bat, despite mostly coming out lower down the order, has been equally astonishing. After Kohli (4,881), he has accumulated the most IPL runs (4,456) as a franchise captain. Gautam Gambhir, two-time IPL winning captain with Kolkata Knight Riders, is third on this list, having 3,518 runs.
Jadeja, meanwhile, has no interest to do everything all by himself from IPL 2022. “I don’t need to worry too much because he (Dhoni) is here, so whatever I have a question to ask, I will definitely go to him. He will be my go-to person. He was and still is today,” the 33-year-old all-rounder clarified in a video released by CSK on Thursday (March 24) evening.
Du Plessis, in a video shared by the franchise, called Kohli ‘a very good leader at RCB’, despite the latter seeing little success under his tenure. The South African did not elaborate Kohli’s tactical nous, but lauded him by saying his ‘experience, the wisdom, and knowledge that comes through that is second to none.’
Safe to say, with Kohli and Dhoni stepping down from leadership roles, the IPL will no longer be the same in many aspects. The teams’ environment, however, will remain intact, as Dhoni’s equanimity, as well as Kohli’s fiery aggression, are not going to leave the tournament yet.
Let us not get too emotional. The beauty and brutality of ‘Mahirat’ still remain as unicorns.