'Best time to announce my retirement but...': MS Dhoni makes hearts stop after CSK win IPL; 'Easy thing is to walk away'
As world cricket waited with bated breathe, MS Dhoni made a heart-stopping 'retirement' remark that made the Ahmedabad crowd go berserk.
What did fans want more in IPL 2023 - a comeback win for Chennai Super Kings or for MS Dhoni to not say those heart-breaking goodbye words? Probably the first, or arguably more the second given how the spectators responded to him throughout the season. Much to the delight of most, the first box was ticked in thundering fashion on Monday night when Chennai beat Gujarat Titans by five wickets in Ahmedabad to clinch a record-equalling fifth title. Later, when it was time for the second, the one for which the cricket world waited with bated breaths, Dhoni made a heart-stopping 'retirement' remark that made the Ahmedabad crowd go berserk.
It wasn't the night for Dhoni the batter as he suffered an unlikely golden duck in Chennai's chase of 171 in the rain-truncated IPL 2023 final at the Narendra Modi Stadium. But it was surely the night for Dhoni the skipper, who played a pivotal role in scripting Chennai's stunning turnaround from the 2022 season where they had finished ninth in the table to win the trophy in 2023. After the match, and the long presentation ceremony where all the awards were presented, the winning-skipper was finally called upon, and presenter Harsha Bhogle did not waste another moment by jumping right to the main question.
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Harsha Bhogle: We meet again. We meet again like we so often do after these title wins. Should I ask you something or are you going to tell me something anyway?
MS Dhoni: It's better if you ask and then I reply.
Harsha Bhogle: I asked you when you last won a trophy, about the legacy you leave behind in CSK. You said 'I haven't left it behind yet.
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And then came the million-dollar words from Dhoni's mouth, Dhoni admitted that it was probably the right time for him to bid adieu to the sport by announcing his retirement from IPL, but like any typical answer, there was more to it. Crediting the fans for their unparalleled support throughout the season, Dhoni announced that he remains open to playing another season. The CSK skipper mentioned that he would want to make a comeback next year as well. Despite knowing that it might be physically even more demanding given his age, 41, and his ongoing knee condition, Dhoni added that he has nine months to take the big call on his IPL 2024 participation.
"Looking for an answer? Circumstantially if you see, this is the best time to announce my retirement. But the amount of love and affection I have been shown wherever I have been this year, the easy thing would be for me to say "Thank you very much", but the tough thing for me is to work hard for another 9 months and come back and play at least 1 more season of IPL. A lot depends on the body, I have 6-7 months to decide. It will be more like a gift from my side, it's not easy for me but that's a gift. The way they've shown their love and affection, I think that's something I need to do for them," he said.
With his reply, Dhoni added a little more mystique to his aura. For Dhoni, it has never been much about personal milestones or hogging the limelight. Hence, the prospect of him announcing his retirement after CSK's title win – which would have taken all the focus away from the franchise and be put back on Dhoni – was never really high. But the one thing you know with him for certain is that you never know. Three years ago, a post on Dhoni's Instagram account took every Indian by storm and rest assured, a lot more eyes will be on his Instagram as he ponders what to do between now and then.
As the presentation ceremony came to an end, Dhoni opened up on his raw emotions that were on display. As CSK's chase against GT reached boiled down to the last match, a tense Dhoni looked on… and once Jadeja struck the winning runs with a boundary, the CSK captain was visibly pleased, lifting the star all-rounder on his shoulders. At that moment, the camera caught a glimpse of a rare tear or two in the great man's eyes.
"You do get emotional simply because it's the last part of my career, it started over here and the first game when I walked down everyone was chanting my name. My eyes were full of water and I just stood there in the dugout for a while. I realised I want to enjoy this. It was the same thing in Chennai, it was my last game over there but it will be good to come back and play whatever I can. They love me for what I am," Dhoni added.
"The kind of cricket I play, I think everyone in the stadium thinks they can play that way because there is nothing orthodox about it. So, I feel they can relate to me more than anyone else. I don't want to change myself, I never wanted to portray myself in a way which I am not. I just keep it simple. Every trophy is special, but what is special about IPL is every crunch game you need to be ready."