After finishing ninth in the 2022 Indian Premier League, none really predicted such a turnaround for MS Dhoni and co the very next season. Just thus far, Chennai have looked like one of the best outfits put together, despite plenty of injuries. When Ben Stokes was injured, Chennai looked at Ajinkya Rahane, who since walking into the team has delivered on all occasions.
In the five games that Rahane has played this year, his scores have read 61, 31, 37, 9 and 71*. Walking in at 73/1, Rahane had the license to go hard from the ball go, and delivered under pressure, with a stunning knock of 71 off just 29 deliveries, a knock where he thumped six fours and five sixes, two of which came in the same over against Umesh Yadav.
MS Dhoni, in the post-match presentation, lauded Rahane’s efforts and insisted that the team management just allowed him to play his natural game. Alongside that, Dhoni stressed the need to give the likes of Rahane his best batting position - at No.3 - which then pushed Moeen Ali further down the order.
“We realise the potential of someone when we allow him to bat the way he bats. We give him the freedom, give him the best position. In a team environment, someone has to sacrifice his slot to allow the others to get more comfortable, and allow the team to succeed,” Dhoni said at the post-match presentation.
Despite scoring 235, Dhoni’s words in the dressing room were ‘respect the opposition’ to the bowlers. Chennai’s bowlers responded in fine fashion, reducing KKR to 33/2 in the powerplay. Since then, the likes of Matheesha Pathirana and Maheesh Theekshana stepped up with the ball to seal a massive two points for the Super Kings.
“Fast bowlers are doing their job, so are spinners in the middle. The wicket was short on one side so we needed to get early wickets and keep the pressure. They have plenty of power hitters, so we had to give the respect to the opposition.”
“I have a clear funda, if someone is injured he can't do anything. You just move on and motivate the youngsters to perform. We have been fortunate that all the guys coming in are performing,” he added.
But the night wasn’t all about Chennai Super Kings or their massive win, it was about one man, Dhoni, who possibly is playing his last year in the IPL. The crowds turned up in ‘Yellove’ for the man, and the 41-year-old thanked the crowd for coming in numbers, to support him and his team.
“I will just say thanks for the support, they came in big numbers. Most of these guys will come in a KKR jersey next time. They are trying to give me a farewell, so thanks a lot to the crowd.”