Dhoni’s timing impeccable as he passed on captaincy baton

MS Dhoni and Ruturaj Gaikwad for CSK (Image: Ruturaj Gaikwad Instagram)

The last match that MS Dhoni captained in his storied career was the IPL final of 2023. And he won the trophy for a record fifth time as leader. That’s the legacy he leaves behind. And in sport, it is all about timing. His timing in giving up the captaincy has been perfect. The perfect finish for the greatest leader that Indian cricket has ever seen.

Emotions aside, the decision is a fantastic one. Smart. We always knew Dhoni had an incredible cricket brain. This decision is proof. He could have recommended that Chennai Super Kings (CSK) go back to Ravindra Jadeja, but given that he will be 36 this year, that would have been a stop-gap solution at best. In 2022, the Jadeja captaincy gambit had backfired and it took a while to assuage bruised egos. Ahead of another title defence, the last thing CSK or Dhoni want is another dysfunctional campaign.

Ruturaj Gaikwad is a Dhoni protege who owes his IPL career to Dhoni and Stephen Fleming. It is only natural that with him in charge, a suggestion that Dhoni makes or has to offer will be taken with utmost seriousness and possibly respected. Dhoni knows that well and so does the management. It is a call which pre-empts any chance of a fall out or an ego clash, and it will only serve the interests of the franchise in the long run.


It’s also a matter of shutting down the chatter. Almost everyone, from fans in the stand to pundits in the studio, knows that this will be Dhoni’s last season. Had he been captain, each post-game interview would have been dominated by that and little else. Dhoni isn’t an insecure man that needs that constant validation, and he knows that the team certainly doesn’t need a sideshow tailing them around from city to city.

Jadeja has missed a fair bit of cricket in recent seasons and is hardly an investment for the future. More than any other franchise, Chennai have valued continuity – Fleming has been coach since 2009 – and Gaikwad offers the prospect of that for at least a few season. As Kasi Viswanathan, CEO and closest confidante of N Srinivasan, said to RevSportz, “Dhoni will always take a call with the interest of CSK in mind.” With this decision, Dhoni has proved that he isn’t just a player for CSK. Rather, he is also part of the management and will surely get involved in the running of the franchise once he decides to hang up his boots.

I call the move smart because no one knows his body better than Dhoni. He must have sensed that it was time to think of the end. He would have known that it might not be possible to play every game. After the knee injury that required surgery last year, his 43-year-old body may not be up to 18 regular-season matches in two months in intense summer heat. And if he pushed himself more, he risked damaging his own legacy and hurting the franchise.

Knowing Dhoni, that would have been enough to make up his mind. Timing. He made a mistake in the World Cup semi-final in 2019, when he did not dive. He was a fraction of a second late and that cost him and India. He knows the value of those split-seconds. Having won the IPL in 2023, his legacy is unmatched and it was time to pass on the baton. He did. The master stroke. The perfect finish from the mind master.


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