A ringside view of CSK's captain marvel M.S. Dhoni

CSK's run-rate has been sapped by the soul-sucking heat and humidity. It is barely past 50 after 10 overs, and 88/2 after 14 when captain M.S. Dhoni, who missed the previous match due to viral fever, marches out to bat.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni with the bat in hand in the 20th over of an IPL game is a phenomenon.   -  AP

The heat is on, with the temperature soaring above 35 degrees in the Chennai evening. The M. A. Chidambaram Stadium (Chepauk) is a steaming cauldron. Chennai Super Kings (CSK) fans are sweating. Their team is in a spot of bother against Delhi Capitals (DC) on Wednesday evening.

CSK's run-rate has been sapped by the soul-sucking heat and humidity. It is barely past 50 after 10 overs, and 88/2 after 14 when captain M.S. Dhoni, who missed the previous match due to viral fever, marches out to bat.

"He's been pretty sick during this week," CSK head coach Stephen Fleming had said before the match. But this matchday, Dhoni has moved up the order, ahead of regular No. 4 Ambati Rayudu.

It isn't until after the 16th over that Dhoni, adored as Thala by home fans, gets his first scoring shot of the match — a short delivery from Chris Morris is pulled away for four. He hits one boundary every over thereafter and also swipes a Morris beamer for a one-handed six over fine-leg.

READ: M.S. Dhoni's glovework - nimble and slick artistry

The master of last-over finishes is up against Trent Boult in the 20th over, set for the endgame. After collecting seven off the first four balls, it's Rayudu who is on strike. Boult sends down a ball way outside off. Rayudu fails to make contact, and responds to his skipper's call for a quick single. The umpire calls it a wide.  

This single is in more than one way a microcosm of Dhoni's strength  — raising the tempo with swift running between the wickets to complement his brutal power-hitting abilities.

He has stolen a bye and seized the moment. He has two balls to damage DC. He obliges. Both deliveries are smashed for sixes. Dhoni has powered Chennai to 179. 

ALSO READ: Defeat to CSK was a reality check, says Shreyas Iyer

Dhoni with the bat in hand in the 20th over of an IPL game is a phenomenon. His strength and zen-like composure have seen him hammer 554 runs at a strike-rate of 244 — with 46 sixes and 39 boundaries — in over number 20 across 71 innings.

Teammate Suresh Raina provides the perspective after the match. “Losing Dhoni as a captain isn’t an issue. Losing him as a batsman is what’s difficult for us." Raina had stepped in as CSK captain for two games when Dhoni sat out. CSK lost both the matches.

CSK head coach Stephen Fleming's words for Dhoni on the eve of the match suddenly acquire even more context. "While missing someone like Dhoni, you can't pretend that you have a replacement for him. That would be wrong," Fleming had said at the pre-match press conference.

Against DC, Dhoni showed just why.

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