At the unveiling of his new team jersey in February, MS Dhoni told reporters he would be lying if he said he’d moved on. “I cannot suddenly say I am very excited to play for a new team,” he had said and fondly remembered his time with Chennai Super Kings (CSK).
Less than two months and a World T20 later, he’s knuckled down to work in Pune.
A day after India lost in the semifinal to the West Indies in the World T20, Dhoni was in Pune, said Rising Pune Supergiants’ coach Stephen Fleming. “I have certainly moved on because the challenge in front of us is immense. The time that I have spent this week with MS has been all about that. His commitment to moving forward has been really strong. I think the one thing you can take from all your experience is the positives and we’ll both try and do that (from their time at CSK).”
Dhoni’s comment about CSK had come some 10 days before the IPL players’ auction for 2016. He didn’t attend it but spent six hours a day before that in Mumbai with his new team’s staff strategising on squad composition.
“He constantly kept in touch with my team during the auction,” said team owner Sanjiv Goenka. “The challenge was to put together a side that we could be positive about and I think we have done that and done that well,” said Fleming.
“So, this team may have three captains --- Faf du Plessis and Steve Smith being the others --- but there’s no denying who’s boss. Dhoni’s an important reason why we are also getting supporters from Kolkata and elsewhere in India as well,” said Goenka.
Over the past few months, however, the boss has been unable to keep his Zen-like public persona whenever the issue of retirement has cropped up. Fleming didn’t think rival teams could get under Dhoni’s skin by saying that --- “not unless there’s an Indian media 11 in the competition” --- but said he could guess why his captain is getting irritated.
“From the way he captained (in World T20), how he ran between the wickets and the light nature in which he was commenting on a lot of the games shows he is very engaged in playing well for India. Perhaps each time that comes up, it, in some way, questions his commitment and contribution to Indian cricket. I can understand his insecurity around that.
“He’s a very smart cricketer without being selfish. On the other hand, people are almost implying that he is selfishly playing for reasons other than form and performance,” said Fleming.