IPL 2018: Dhoni back in his bastion

M.S. Dhoni was in control at a familiar venue — Chepauk. In his first practice session for Chennai Super Kings in two years, Dhoni, the side’s iconic captain, did not miss a beat.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni with N. Srinivasan at Chepauk on Thursday.   -  R. Ragu

The ball was whipped with disdain — with an amalgam of dexterous wrists and furious bat-speed — past the wide long-on ropes. The helicopter shot was on view.

The sphere took flight again, this time over long-off as another monstrous blow was delivered with consummate ease.

Yes, the lion roared again at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Thursday. The stands were empty but the sound of the willow pierced through the silence.

M.S. Dhoni was in control at a familiar venue — Chepauk. In his first practice session for Chennai Super Kings in two years, Dhoni, the side’s iconic captain, did not miss a beat.

The significance of the occasion was not lost. Here was the popular skipper of a heavyweight franchise, a side that had been banished for two years from the IPL, picking the reins again and making a statement with his intensity at the nets.

As the leader of CSK, he’s always had his finger on the pulse of the game and the team. His equanimity in stressful situations — he is Captain Cool — contrasts with his marauding presence at the crease where attacks are ruthlessly dismissed.

Chepauk has been CSK’s bastion. This is Dhoni territory, where he has scripted incredible escape acts with the bat, rotated bowlers and switched fielders around with typical confidence, and invariably pulled it off.

On Thursday, Dhoni arrived at the ground with a bag slung over his shoulders, and was soon engaged in a conversation with the side’s bowling coach L. Balaji, among the city’s favourite cricketing sons.

Then Dhoni caught up with the groundsmen. Soon former ICC and BCCI chief N. Srinivasan, along with CSK CEO K.S. Viswanathan, walked up to meet Dhoni and Balaji.

Not much later, Dhoni, along with Ambati Rayadu, took turns to bat at the nets. Apart from the local bowlers, paceman K.M. Asif, signed up by CSK, ran in to bowl.

Dhoni’s body language exuded belief. Many challenges lie ahead but ‘MS’ seems in command.

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