Dhoni and CSK recreate old Chepauk magic
What an electrifying moment we have here! Shivam Dube has just smashed Ravi Bishnoi for two consecutive sixes over wide long-on, and the crowd at Chepauk is going wild! They are chanting “Dei, Dube out aagu da” (Hey, Dube get out), echoing the similar chant that rang around the stadium during the intra-squad practice game when they were all eager to watch MS Dhoni smash sixes.
But today, the Chennai Super Kings’ first home game in four years, the crowd fears that they might not get to see their beloved thala bat. As Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes both hit Avesh Khan for four, the crowd became even more restless. The Super Kings are 203 for 5 after the 19th over, and the tension is mounting.
Then, Mark Wood bowls to Ravindra Jadeja, who skies a pull. Even before Ravi Bishnoi settles under it, the roof is blown off Chepauk, and the DJ plays “Once upon a time there lived a ghost” from Kamal Haasan’s recent blockbuster movie Vikram. The past four years have been tough for Chennai, living only with memories of Dhoni. But now, they finally get to see Dhoni in the flesh.
And what a show he puts on! Wood bowls a 149kph ball outside off, hiding the ball away from Dhoni’s reach. But that doesn’t stop him. Dhoni reaches out and scythes his first ball flat and hard over point for six! He may turn 42 this July, but his hand-eye coordination and power are unbelievable! Chepauk erupts in pure joy!
Wood tries to intimidate Dhoni with a bouncer into his armpit, but Dhoni is too quick for him. He swivels on the back foot and hooks the ball into the top tier over square leg for an even bigger six! Chepauk goes wild once again! Shaik Rasheed, Rajvardhan Hangargekar, Devon Conway, and Ruturaj Gaikwad, who have never seen Dhoni do this at Chepauk before, are up on their feet, clapping in disbelief. But for the Chepauk faithful, this is old magic, even though Dhoni holed out the next ball.
What an incredible evening at Chepauk! The Chennai Super Kings have truly recreated their old magic in their grand homecoming match. It all started with a stunning opening partnership between Gaikwad and Conway, reminiscent of M Vijay and Michael Hussey’s glory days. Gaikwad was like a man possessed, taking down offspinner K Gowtham with three towering sixes in one over. Conway was no less impressive, taking calculated risks against both spin and pace like Hussey used to.
Later on, there was a slight spin choke, but it was an unfamiliar one in a high-scoring fixture. The pitch wasn’t a turner, yet Moeen and Mitchell Santner managed to extract enough turn to keep the Lucknow Super Giants batters at bay, denying them easy access to the shorter boundary on one side. The Super Giants had a great start, reaching 79 for no loss inside the powerplay, but fell to 130 for 5, thanks to Moeen and Santner’s impressive spin bowling.
Despite Super Kings’ spinners looking dominant, the presence of Nicholas Pooran at No. 6 for the Super Giants made Dhoni hold Jadeja back. But, with Deepak Chahar and Stokes conceding runs, Dhoni decided to bring Jadeja into the attack for the 15th over. Unfortunately, Pooran was in destructive form and immediately smashed Jadeja for two massive sixes, taking him out of the attack. The Chepauk crowd was left in stunned silence by Pooran’s power hitting.
The crowd at Chepauk was silenced by Nicholas Pooran’s impressive hitting, but they were soon back to their vocal best when Tushar Deshpande managed to get him out in the 16th over. Deshpande followed this up with a boundary-less 18th over, putting the pressure back on the Super Giants. With 37 runs needed off just 12 balls, the Super Kings were still waiting for their death bowlers, Sisanda Magala and Maheesh Theekshana, to arrive after finishing their national duties. Captain MS Dhoni decided to take a chance on an unheralded Indian seamer, Hangargekar, who had conceded a lot of runs to Pooran earlier in the game. This was a make-or-break moment for Hangargekar, but Dhoni showed his faith in the young bowler to deliver under pressure.
Dhoni then set the field with his best off-side fielders, including Jadeja, Gaikwad, Santner and Stokes, and instructed Hangargekar to bowl wide yorkers and pitch the ball away from the hitting arcs of both Badoni and Gowtham. Despite conceding two wides in the over, Hangargekar stuck to his plan and gave away just nine runs overall in the penultimate over, all but ending the Super Giants’ chase.
But the endgame at Chepauk wouldn’t be complete without a classic Dhoni moment. He proved his worth once again by tracking down a skier from Badoni, even though he was initially wrong-footed. This was yet another example of Dhoni’s brilliance and leadership, and it was clear that his team was inspired by his never-say-die attitude.
What a momentous occasion for the Chennai Super Kings and their captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni! Amidst the thunderous cheers of the crowd, Dhoni revealed how much it means to him and his team to be back in the iconic Chepauk stadium. He acknowledged that although the IPL has been around since 2008, they haven’t played many games here, having only played for five or six seasons. But now, with the full stadium operational, Dhoni expressed his elation at being able to play all their home games in front of their beloved fans. The fans, of course, shared in this emotion, as they watched on eagerly.
Here are some achievements of MS Dhoni with Chennai Super Kings:
- Dhoni led CSK to three IPL titles (2010, 2011, 2018).
- Under Dhoni’s captaincy, CSK reached the finals of the IPL eight times (2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2018, and 2019).
- Dhoni has scored 4632 runs for CSK in the IPL, including 23 half-centuries.
- Dhoni holds the record for most catches as a wicket-keeper in IPL, with 109 catches in 204 matches.
- Dhoni holds the record for most dismissals as a wicket-keeper in IPL, with 150 dismissals (109 catches and 41 stumpings).
- In the 2013 IPL season, Dhoni hit five consecutive half-centuries, becoming the only player to do so in IPL history.
- Dhoni is the only player to lead a team in 200 IPL matches.
And as if this wasn’t already a special night for the Super Kings, Dhoni had a heartwarming reunion with two former players of the team, Suresh Raina and Robin Uthappa, who were now on commentary for this IPL. As the clock struck midnight, it was a fitting end to a memorable return to Chepauk for the Chennai Super Kings.