There has been much noise around his form in the recent past and speculations have swirled on whether he should call it quits and settle into a happy post-retirement life. However, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the man at the centre of it all, is having none of it and just wants to focus on his cricket.
Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar recently gave us a peek into Dhoni’s mind, sharing a conversation he had with him on the sidelines of skipper Virat Kohli’s wedding reception in Mumbai.
Manjrekar said when the conversation veered to the buzz around his retirement, MS Dhoni said as long as he was beating the fastest sprinter in the Indian team, he would consider himself fit for international cricket.
Saying he was confident Dhoni would play fabulously well in the upcoming 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the player-turned-commentator said, ” During Virat Kohli’s wedding (reception) I had a little corner time with him (Dhoni) and he said that as long as I’m beating the fastest sprinter in the team, I am going to consider myself fit enough to be playing international cricket, or playing high-level cricket.”
Though the talismanic wicketkeeper-batsman has been away from cricket since India’s semi-final exit in the 2019 World Cup, he had been keeping himself in shape to survive the rigours of the game at the top level.
His manager, who also happens to be a close friend of his, recently said Dhoni looked in prime form during pre-season training for the IPL and wasn’t contemplating retirement.
However, that was before all forms of cricket were suspended because of the COVID-induced lockdown.
Now, with the IPL back on schedule, Dhoni is counting down the days before he can get those booming boundaries and sixes off his willow again.
Asked if he sees Dhoni lighting up the IPL with his power hitting,
Manjrekar said, “As a batter, with MS Dhoni in the IPL, I don’t see much difference. In fact, the conditions that we have, I keep saying, is just perfect for Dhoni, where it’s going to be about the mind and not just power hitting.”
Dhoni wowed the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) fans with his dazzling strokeplay in the last IPL and Manjrekar said he expects more of the same this year. “I think he’s going to be very good and one of the reasons that he is so successful and so consistent in the IPL as a batsman as opposed to international (cricket) is that he knows there are about four or five bowlers to handle. And, there are some good ones and not so good ones in the IPL,” the former India batsman said.
One of Dhoni’s strengths in limited overs cricket, as evidenced by the numerous matches he has single-handedly won for the country, is that he knows which bowlers to play out and whom to attack.
It’s the same trait that has brought him immense success across twelve editions of the showpiece domestic T20 event.
Dhoni, in many ways, introduced the culture of fitness to Indian cricket and it’s the one attribute which gives him the confidence that he is still good enough for international cricket. “People with Tendulkar, Dhoni, these are champion cricketers. Once they are on the public stage, you will never see Dhoni ever on a public stage, like a cricket field, looking slightly unfit or unable to sprint or run,” Manjrekar said.
The stage is set yet again for the CSK captain to show why he is still indispensable for Indian cricket. It’s the tournament which can win him a ticket to the next T20 World Cup in India. For the sake of his fans and cricket lovers in general, one hopes he makes the opportunity count.