Wish Dhoni plays next year: CSK CEO Kasi Viswanathan

Dhoni is yet to announce his retirement. (Source: X.com)

Shamik Chakrabarty in Chennai

Somehow, the buzz is missing from the last two games of this year’s IPL. Make no mistake, Chepauk is expected to be full for Qualifier 2 on Friday and the final on Sunday, but the Chennai crowd is keeping fervour at arm’s length.

Two months ago, when this city hosted the IPL opener, long queues snaked the stadium even on the match eve, just to catch a glimpse of the stars turning up for practice. Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bengaluru, boasting galacticos, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli, met in the tournament opener. On Thursday, as Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) sweated it out at Chepauk in the evening, the stadium wore a deserted look.

KKR have been the best team in this IPL by a distance and they are already in the final. Sunrisers, who will take on Rajasthan Royals in Qualifier 2 on Friday, have power-hitters like Travis Head and Abhishek Sharma in their ranks. But cricket following in India is personality-based and KKR’s allround game and Sunrisers and Royals’ verve cannot make up for a stardust void. The local fans wanted to see their ‘Thala’ at Chepauk. His absence has made them downbeat.

As regards to Dhoni, have the fans seen the last of him? “My wish is that he plays next year,” CSK chief executive Kasi Viswanathan told RevSportz. “But this is my wish only. He hasn’t informed us anything yet, and we never ask him about retirement. If he takes a decision, he will inform us,” 

Circa 2025, however, will be the time to rebuild, via a mega auction. Franchises will finalise their strategies and from that perspective, will uncertainty over Dhoni help CSK? “He will inform us before that, that’s for sure,” said Viswanathan. “It’s totally his call, if he wants to continue or not.”

Viswanathan was not unduly upset over CSK’s failure to reach the playoffs this term. They had a 7-7 result over 14 games and missed out on net run rate. “See, we cannot expect to win every year. And given the injuries we had, we did reasonably well.”

The five-time IPL champions lost Devon Conway to a thumb injury even before the start of the IPL. Then, Deepak Chahar got injured. Sri Lankan fast bowler Matheesha Pathirana suffered a hamstring injury and returned home, and Bangladesh’s Mustafizur Rahman was off for national duty. No wonder that the franchise is not considering any knee-jerk reaction.

“We don’t have to make a radical overhaul at the mega auction,” said Viswanathan. “We have the core, some exciting young players like Simarjeet Singh, and we have to make a few changes here and there.”

Any chance that CSK might be losing Stephen Fleming, their long-standing head coach, as he has reportedly been approached by the BCCI to succeed Rahul Dravid? “I have no idea,” said Viswanathan. “I asked him (Fleming), and he said ‘no’.”