Dhoni mania as IPL heads into tense final week
Chennai Super Kings host Gujarat Titans on Tuesday in front of a home crowd desperate to see M.S. Dhoni win another Indian Premier League in what could be his farewell week to cricket.
A packed house is expected at Chennai’s M.A. Chidambaram Stadium and all eyes will be on the 41-year-old Dhoni.
Four-time champions Chennai host table-toppers Gujarat in the first play-off of this season’s IPL, with the winner going into Sunday’s final. The loser goes into another playoff match.
Fans have turned up in large numbers at every venue to watch Dhoni, the Chennai skipper and former India captain who is expected to retire from cricket at the end of this campaign.
He retired from national duty in 2020.
Dhoni has kept fans guessing and not explicitly said he expects to call it quits when the end of the season arrives at some point over the next week.
The wicketkeeper-batsman has reinvented himself this term as a lower-order batsman coming in at number eight.
“This is what my job is,” he said after hitting a nine-ball 20 in a late cameo to help Chennai defeat Delhi earlier this month.
“I have told them (his team) this is what I am supposed to do, don’t make me run a lot, and it has been working.”
Dhoni’s likely farewell is one of a number of sub-plots heading into the final week of the Twenty20 extravaganza.
Opponents Gujarat have extended their fairytale journey from winning the crown in their debut season last year to making the play-offs once again.
“Last year we did well, everything went our way,” said skipper Hardik Pandya, who then guided Gujarat to the top of the 10-team table in the regular season this year.
“This year was a different challenge for us. We were expecting people to challenge us. The boys showed tremendous character.”
Opener Shubman Gill has led the way with his 680 runs, second only in this IPL to Faf du Plessis at Bangalore on 730, but with a chance now to grab the Orange Cap for top-scorer.
He struck his second straight ton on Sunday to play another match-winning role for a team which triumphed in 10 of their 14 group matches.
If Gujarat make the final they will again enjoy home advantage playing at the 132,000-capacity stadium in Ahmedabad.
Green justifies price tag
On Wednesday, five-time champions Mumbai Indians, led by India skipper Rohit Sharma, take on Lucknow Super Giants in another playoff.
The winner of that match will play the loser of Chennai-Gujarat on Friday for a spot in Sunday’s final at the world’s biggest cricket stadium.
Mumbai rode on Australian all-rounder Cameron Green’s maiden T20 century in a crushing win over Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday to sneak into the playoffs.
Green’s 47-ball 100 not out and a 56 by Rohit in Mumbai’s successful chase of 201 has suddenly made the IPL heavyweights, who last won the IPL in 2020, favourites in the knockout clash against Lucknow.
The 23-year-old Green was the second-most expensive player in IPL history when Mumbai bought him for $2.11 million in this season’s auction.