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Dhoni to lead Chennai Super Kings in IPL till 2022

As we inch closer to the IPL 2020, all eyes will be on Chennai Super Kings captain MS Dhoni, who will return to playing cricket for the first time since India’s World Cup exit last year. While Dhoni’s return is a sign that he may still have some cricket left in him, CEO of the franchise Kasi Viswanathan has hinted at the former India captain continuing till 2022 besides providing surety for at least the coming couple of seasons. “We don’t worry about him at all. Yes, we can expect MS Dhoni to be part of both (IPL 2020 and 2021) and probably for even the next year, 2022,” Viswanathan said. “I am getting updates through the media only, saying he has been training in Jharkhand in indoor nets. But we don’t have to worry about the skipper, boss. We don’t worry about him at all. He knows his responsibilities and he will take care of himself and the team,” he added.

Days after Suresh Raina said Dhoni’s ‘helicopters’ are expected to be out soon, it seems as if his former CSK and India captain has taken Raina’s words seriously. Few days back, reports emerged that Dhoni hit the ground running in a bid to prepare for the IPL, hitting the JSCA indoor facility ahead of the team’s departure. Due to lockdown and social distancing, there aren’t too many bowlers available in Ranchi at the moment, so Dhoni has taken to facing bowling machines for the time being. Viswanathan is not the first to predict Dhoni’s future with CSK. In January this year, the lack of a central contract for Dhoni sparked rumours of his retirement but N?Srinivasan confirmed that the former skipper will be leading the team in IPL 2021. “Dhoni will play this year, next year he will go to the auction and we will retain him,” N Srinivasan during an event.

Meanwhile, Viswanathan touched upon the preparations that are in order for CSK and their training in the UAE. The CEO confirmed that the team will reach Chennai on August 16, before leaving for the Emirates five days later (August 21), where their base camp will be in Dubai. “The team will start practicing at Chepauk mostly by August 16. Dhoni and Raina, along with other team members, would arrive by August 14-15, and we would leave for UAE around August 21,” he said. “It will be a skill-based plus training camp. It can’t immediately start off with skills because they are coming back after a long off .”

Meanwhile, CSK captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni also underwent a Covid-19 test for the upcoming season and his test report is expected to come up shortly. The micro praxis lab at private Guru Nanak hospital here took his sample from his Simaliya based farmhouse in the state capital. Besides Dhoni, another CSK player Monu Kumar Singh also gave his samples.

Former Australia all-rounder Shane Watson is an integral part of the CSK’s outfit and the burly Aussie is all set for another crack at the tournament that had resurrected his career way back in 2008. He has excelled under the leadership of MS Dhoni at CSK and believes that the former India captain still has a lot to offer on the cricketing field. “MS still loves playing. He is an evergreen cricketer and it feels like he just doesn’t age. Look, with the kind of skills he has and the hard yards he puts in, MS can go on and play into his 40s,” Watson said. Dhoni will be back in action in the IPL after a break of more than a year from competitive cricket. He last played a competitive match in the 2019 ICC World Cup, when India had lost in the semi-final of the tournament to New Zealand.

Since then there has been speculation about Dhoni’s future with many saying that he has perhaps played his last match in an India jersey. But Watson believes otherwise. “MS has been able to manage his body well. The way he is able to run consistently and showcase skills behind the stumps are just incredible. I am a big fan of MS and would want to see him continue playing whether it’s for CSK or internationally,” Watson said. Watson had won the IPL with Rajasthan Royals in the maiden season in 2008, playing a pivotal role with both bat and ball. He played a starring role for CSK as an opener in the 2018 season, which helped Dhoni’s team win the title for the third time. He was influential last season too, but CSK lost the final to Mumbai Indians by a solitary run.

The presence of many players who are deep into their 30s is a boon and not bane for Chennai Super Kings as they head into the 13th IPL after the long coronavirus-forced break, the team’s bowling coach L Balaji said. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, 39, is getting ready to lead the three-time winners in the upcoming edition of IPL, scheduled to be held in the UAE from September 19 to November 10. Asked if the senior players would find it difficult to get back into the groove, Balaji responded in the negative. “I don’t think it’s going to be that difficult, because all your life you have played this sport. So many years of understanding will come in handy to get back to your best,” Balaji said. “Experience will definitely be important. It has been proven in big tournaments like IPL.” Besides the skipper, the franchise, among others, has in its ranks veterans such as Shane Watson and Dwayne Bravo. Dhoni is someone who believes in following the process, in giving opportunity and exposure instead of changing and chopping, Balaji said. “Dhoni is always a process backing leader. There is no short cut in his leadership, but he is someone who believes in opportunity and exposure rather than cutting and chopping,” Balaji added.

Balaji, a former India fastmedium bowler, said it is not easy to regain peak fitness in any sport straightaway after a break. “It is not easy to hit the 100 per cent mark straightaway in any sport. As we progress with our skills and fitness every week, we will look to improve our strengths in phases. But the good thing is that we had a camp in March and it is going to be a continuation of where we left in that camp,” he added. Balaji is expected to be in charge of the brief camp here which would see the Indian players in the team including Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Piyush Chawla.

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