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Long-time CSK skipper MS Dhoni steps down from captaincy at 42

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When MS Dhoni said in a recent tweet before heading into the Chennai Super Kings preseason camp that he would be seen in a different role, one wondered what that would be. He kept most of us guessing, probably his teammates too, before dropping the bombshell on Thursday.
No, he isn’t retiring this year, but Dhoni won’t lead CSK in what will probably be his last season. As he prepares for his probable last dance, MSD has passed on the captaincy baton for the second time in three years, this time to

Ruturaj Gaikwad

, a quiet Maharashtra boy who has been a perfect fit in the CSK ethos.

When Dhoni gave the captaincy to Ravindra Jadeja a couple of years ago, it didn’t exactly work out the way he expected it to. And once Dhoni saw it wasn’t working, he didn’t hesitate to take the leadership back from one of the most high-profile Indian players. Had it been any other franchise, a hurt Jadeja might have left, in fact he was very close to it, but here again Dhoni intervened.

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There were no bruised egos on Dhoni’s part. He simply made it clear that Jadeja would not be released. Jadeja stayed on, had an up-and-down season but when it mattered most — the last two balls of the season — he hit 10 runs to win the title for CSK.
But did that prompt Dhoni to rethink his decision to take the captaincy away from Jadeja? No. He had made up his mind it had to be Ruturaj last year itself, and kept at it. “Jadeja will be very much a part of the leadership group and everyone will try to contribute to Ruturaj settling in,” coach Stephen Fleming said, indicating how well Dhoni handles the egos in the dressing-room.

While Ruturaj will be officially in charge of CSK, Dhoni will handle the transition himself, being in the thick of things. “There will be (mentoring), without interfering. In the middle there will be a bit of trial and error but that’s fine,” Fleming said.
While Dhoni gets down to the business of making Ruturaj comfortable in the hot seat, there’s also the lingering query whether this IPL will be his last.

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If the fans are to select the team, Dhoni will probably keep leading the team forever. But the 42-year-old is a realist. He understands the emotions of fans and is ready to stretch his body to the limit to honour their expectations, but deep down he knows it has to end one day. His knees are creaking, his running between the wickets isn’t even close to where it was, his ability to effortlessly clear the fence at the crunch is on the wane. “His knees are in better shape than it was last year. And hopefully he will play. He is batting quite well at the nets though,” Fleming said.
The beauty of IPL is that it provides the option of an ‘impact sub’, which allows the team the extra batter while chasing.
While Dhoni has never substituted himself, it’s a rule that has allowed him to be in charge while fielding and take a back-seat when the team is batting.
The idea “next comes Dhoni” still invokes fear in the opposition. He also brings a sense of calm in the dressing room. Dhoni knows that in two months’ time at Chepauk, he has the chance to present his legion of fans all over the world the ultimate parting gift — an IPL title at home. On Friday, the countdown begins.

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