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'Dhoni never complained about his knee to anybody'

ByTeam BB

Jun 21, 2023

MS Dhoni didn’t consider missing a single IPL game this season, even though it meant playing with a heavily strapped left knee in a cast. The former India captain, who led Chennai Super Kings to a fifth IPL crown, has since undergone surgery in Mumbai earlier this month and is “comfortable, happy and recovering.”

“We never asked him things like ‘do you want to play or do you want to sit out.’ If he can’t, he would’ve told us straightaway,” CSK CEO Kasi Viswanathan told ESPNcricinfo. “We knew it was a struggle for him to play, but his commitment to the team, his leadership and how the team benefits everyone knows. From that perspective, you have to appreciate him.

“Till the final, he never complained about his knee to anybody. Though everyone knew, and you would’ve seen him struggling while running, he never complained even once. After the final, he said, ‘okay, I’ll have a surgery.’ He’s finished his surgery, he’s quite happy, he’s recovering.”

At the post-final presentation, Dhoni agreed retiring after winning the title would be the “best time”, but has vowed to return for “at least” one more season if his body allows. This will be a “gift” to his fans even if it means putting in “tough” yards for another nine months. That stance remains intact, with Dhoni set to begin his rehab soon after three weeks of post-surgery rest.

“Actually, he told us immediately after the final is over he’ll fly to Mumbai, have surgery and go back to Ranchi for rehab,” Viswanathan said. “In Mumbai, after Ruturaj’s wedding [on June 4], I visited him. It was a courtesy call. He’s quite comfortable. He said he’ll rest for three weeks and then start his rehab. And like he said, he’s not going to play until January-February. We don’t need to remind him about all that.

“He knows what to do, how to go about it, so we aren’t going to ask him ‘what are you going to do, how’ etc. He will inform us on his own. Whatever he’s doing, he’ll call first and inform only Mr N Srinivasan, not anyone else. Factually, he’ll be straightforward with him. From him, we’ll get the information that this is what he’s doing. It’s been this way since 2008. That’s how it will continue.”

Viswanathan also brushed aside the chatter of any friction between Ravindra Jadeja and Dhoni. Last year, there were murmurs that all was not well between the two after Jadeja was removed as captain mid-season. Rumuors intensified when Jadeja left the camp with an injury.

This season, Jadeja is also believed to have been irked by chants of “we want Dhoni!” every time he walked in to bat. Then there were visuals of Jadeja and Dhoni in an animated chat after CSK’s clash in Delhi, where Jadeja finished with figures of 0 for 50 off four overs. Soon after, Viswanathan himself was seen having a long discussion with Jadeja. Then there were some cryptic tweets on “karma” and some straightforward ones, like appreciation from sponsors but not fans.

“As far as Jadeja is concerned, he bowled superbly,” Viswanathan said. “While batting, our line-up of Ruturaj, Conway, Moeen, Rahane, with the results, whenever he [Jadeja] went in to bat, he had 5-10 balls left. In such situations, it can or can’t click sometimes. But the thing is he also knew Dhoni was to come in next, and he himself would get just 2-3 balls sometimes. In such situations whenever he went in, the crowd used to welcome Dhoni. In a way, he may have felt hurt. Any player for that matter may have had that pressure. But he didn’t complain about it even though he put out a tweet.

“It’s all part and parcel of the game. After the last game, people saw videos online and assumed I’m pacifying Jadeja, but it wasn’t like that. I was talking to him about the match, what he did. We didn’t have any other discussion. Everyone knows in a team environment, what happens in the dressing room, no one is privy to it outside. We don’t have any problem. He always had high respect for Dhoni. After the final also, he said, ‘I dedicate this knock to Dhoni.’ That is the kind of respect he has for MS.”

What were Dhoni’s first words to him after the final was won?

“He said, ‘look, the fifth title has been delivered.’ It’s a big relief,” Viswanathan said. “He praised Jadeja for the effort and confidence he showed. It [Ahmedabad] was like a home ground for him [Jadeja]. It was very satisfying. Everyone knows how Dhoni has brought up Jadeja from 2012 at CSK. He has the satisfaction of seeing a home-grown boy deliver the title for CSK.”

This interview first appeared on ESPNcricinfo Tamil on June 20

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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