In this edition of Satire Saturday, we closely go through the journey of how I stopped watching Chennai Super Kings matches - not because of their poor form, but because of the attitude that their skipper MS Dhoni has shown this season, making statements that I didn’t except to hear from him.
After a quiet exit from International cricket through an Instagram post, which sent the entire cricketing fraternity into a frenzy, MS Dhoni’s arrival on the cricket pitch was highly awaited by everyone with the IPL 2020 announced to be conducted from 19 September. It felt like the fairy tale story of Dhoni that began from a middle-class house in Ranchi to becoming the only captain with all the ICC trophies will have few memorable moments towards the last few seasons of his career, but things are not panning out as expected.
Come the 2020 IPL amidst the pandemic, the stage was set for the former Indian captain to make a grand entry onto the 22 yards in the opening match against the defending champions Mumbai Indians. CSK were without their main man Suresh Raina, but they convincingly won the match, courtesy Ambati Rayudu and Faf du Plessis. It didn’t look CSK were any weaker than their hay days with the only difference being MS Dhoni not leading the team to the victory. However, I didn’t lose hope and waited for the upcoming matches to see Dhoni smash it out of the park.
In the very next match, Dhoni did what he is known for, hitting the ball out of the ground in Sharjah. ‘VINTAGE DHONI’ I shouted. However, in the excitement of viewing ‘my hero’ bat, I forgot the situation of the match, which was all but over, and ‘my hero’ was just making his stats better after initially playing slowly in a match, where they required 217. Too little too late.
One bad match happens to every player and I thought Dhoni was just getting started. After all, this was his first tournament after international retirement - had to be special. But in the next game, Dhoni again faltered against a good bowling attack of Delhi, scoring just a 12-ball 15. Still, I kept calm as even ‘my hero’ requires some time to settle down. And boy did he make a return. In the next game against Hyderabad, he scored a 36-ball 47 and lost the game for Chennai. Yes you read that right, he consolidated in the middle overs to take the game deep, but it was a little too much consolidation and there were too many runs to score at the end. Even too many for ‘my hero’.
Let’s see what the man himself said in the post-match interview -
“I was not able to middle a lot of deliveries. Was trying to hit it too hard. When the wicket is slightly at the slower side, it is better to time it. Looking at outfield it was subconsciously coming to us to hit the ball hard,” Dhoni said.
“Maybe we are getting too relaxed. We have been a bit too relaxed at times. After the 16th over, we had two good overs but overall we could have been slightly better.”
Slightly better? I guess that thought came subconsciously to him. But got to give the credit to the man for admitting his own failure. He rightly pointed out that they were a bit too relaxed. Captain cool’s persona working against him?
Moving on from 3 defeats in 4 matches, CSK did make a comeback and won the match by 10 wickets against Punjab. Maybe, it was the only way to get themselves over the rope by not having Dhoni at the crease. But it felt like new habits die hard as Dhoni, in spite of promoting himself to the number 4 position in the next match, failed terribly, getting bowled by Varun Chakravarthy. I guess, ‘my hero’ got into the habit of not finishing the games as it was the same story in the next match against Bangalore as well.
He came out to bat at number 5, got 10 runs off 6 balls, and quietly went back to the dressing room. Seems like the new routine of the Chennai skipper. After losing the match, Dhoni rightly pointed out the snail-like run-scoring in the middle overs and then assured that his side’s batting lineup, in the future, would be aggressive at the death even if that means losing wickets. Quite Brave! He had me at ‘more expressive’.
“It is almost the same thing that is happening maybe the individuals are different but I think we are better off playing the other way round - play the big shots and even if you get out it is fine because we can't leave too many after the 15th or 16th over that just puts too much pressure on the lower order batsmen,” Dhoni said after the match against Bangalore.
“Our batting has lacked a bit of, you can say, power more from the 6th over onwards, individuals get tentative and no matter how much confidence you are giving them, ultimately they have to have their own plan as to how to play. We have not been able to adapt and plan for bowlers bowling from 6-14 overs. In the coming games, we will be slightly more expressive, get out in the 17th over rather than having wickets.”
I mean, if the man himself has said it, it is quite likely that he would follow up on the same. Coming in at the death overs in the next match against Hyderabad, Dhoni scored a 13-ball 21 - completely in line with his statement from the previous match, helping Chennai win the match by 20 runs. However, immediately in the next match, Dhoni was back at his ‘new routine’, as he could only score 3 runs off 5 balls, losing the match against Delhi by 5 wickets. Well, at least the game was not one-sided, with Delhi chasing the target on the penultimate ball.
At this point in the tournament, I never thought my expectations would receive such a thrashing that Dhoni would fail so miserably, but like an ideal fan, I kept my faith in him. And in the next clash against Rajasthan, Dhoni didn’t disappoint as he gave glimpses of the World Cup semi-final by getting run-out just when the team needed him, scoring 28 off 28 balls. Didn’t know things could get this bad. Interestingly, Dhoni revealed that he doesn’t like to take the undue pressure of results, which in my opinion he should because look at the fans struggling to find one silver-lining in the forgettable season. Ironically, he put the youngsters under pressure by stating that they lack the ‘spark’. Can he hear himself speak or it is just the pressure?
“We play in front of millions of people so there is nothing to hide. The fact remains that if you're busy with the process then the undue pressure of results doesn't get into the dressing room,” Dhoni said post-match against Rajasthan.
“Maybe we didn't see the kind of spark that they could've given us to say okay you know push the experienced guys and make space for them. But what this result has done is give those youngsters whatever is left in our league stages. They will get a chance and have no real pressure on them so they can go out and express themselves. And give us the option of looking at the other options in the batting lineup or where they'd like to bat.”
If this much insult wasn’t enough, Chennai and Dhoni finally hit the final nail in the coffin by scoring just 114 against Mumbai, losing the match by 10 wickets. Sam Curran’s 52 saved them or else with Dhoni 16-ball 16 they would have struggled to reach the score of 50. There’s not much that can be said about such a pathetic performance, but Dhoni certainly had some things to say post-match. He blamed luck for the misfortune of the franchise, which is pretty much unlike Dhoni. How can you make such a statement after losing so badly? Even after that, he added that he will be playing in all the games. I guess this was the point of no return and I couldn’t stay a Dhoni fan after this as he himself seems to have given up.
“Rayudu got injured and the rest of the batsmen weren't turning up and we just kept putting pressure on the batting order. Whenever we did not get off to a good start it kept getting difficult for the middle order. In cricket when you are going through a tough phase, you need a bit of luck to go your way. But in this tournament, it hasn't really gone our way,” Dhoni said post the match against Mumbai.
“Captain can't run away, so I'll be playing in all the games.”
Since I no longer was a CSK fan, I didn’t watch their last two matches at all, but Ruturaj Gaikwad answering Dhoni’s statement with back-to-back Man of the Match performances did feel good. I just hope that he realizes the contradicting nature of his performances and his post-match opinions, which were 10x better in his hay days. I don’t expect the same level of performances from Dhoni, but at least he can be graceful in his late-career. Maybe the ‘Captain Cool’ has become too cool for his good. In the end, all I can say is May God Bless Chennai!