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‘I want fans to see what shots I hit’: When MS Dhoni told teammates his secret drive to keep performing

What keeps MS Dhoni going? Former India cricketer recalls when the CSK captain had talked about his respect for the fans.

MS Dhoni will turn 43 this year. He is among the only seven cricketers – Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Dinesh Karthik, Shikhar Dhawan, Wriddhiman Saha and Manish Pandey being the others – to have played in every season of IPL since its inception in 2008. IPL 2024, the 17th edition of the tournament, won’t be any different. The familiar sight of Dhoni walking out in yellow to the thunderous applause from those present on the ground and the silent yet impactful prayers from the millions watching on screen will continue to be one of the striking features of the world’s richest cricket league. But for how long?

MS Dhoni during an IPL 2023 match(PTI)

Dhoni retired from international cricket in August 2020. It’s been almost four years. Yeah, let that sink in. The last time he walked out in India colours was further back in 2019. Naturally, the question about Dhoni’s IPL retirement hogs the limelight every time a new season beckons.

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It was almost an unwritten certainty that last year’s IPL was Dhoni’s last. But then again, the Chennai Super Kings captain said he would return next year only because of the love and support of the fans.

In an episode of Legends Lounge, a JioCinema show, former India cricketers Suresh Raina, RP Singh, and Parthiv Patel all of whom have shared the dressing room with Dhoni at different points in their careers, explained what drives the legendary cricketer to keep turning up on the cricket field.

RP Singh: “I remember this team meeting a long time ago in 2006-2007 when we spoke about what drives players to perform. At that time, MS said, ‘When I get off a bus, I feel like two people are looking at me. When will those two turn to four and when will the four turn to 40? My passion for the game is because I want to play for the fans. I want the fans to see that MS Dhoni hits shots like this.’

“Last year, the fan-following he witnessed was beyond my understanding. Maybe, that’s because it’s been built over the years. MS has performed incredibly for CSK since the beginning and has led them to multiple trophies. Last year, people thought that it might be his last year as an active player, and it might be their final chance to see him play live. That may have caused a 25 to 30% increase in his fan following. The moment he wore his pads last year, our viewership increased.”

Suresh Raina: “Absolutely, I saw Sachin Tendulkar receive this kind of love when we first came into the Indian team. That love was showered on Mahi bhai by Indian fans thereafter. ‘MSD, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’ the name alone is embedded in people’s hearts.”

Parthiv Patel: “There have been three instances of fans showing this kind of love for players. In 2011 when we won the ODI World Cup. Then, when Sachin Tendulkar retired in 2013, the entire ground waited to hear his farewell speech. And last year whenever MS Dhoni played in Chennai, not a single fan would leave until his interview was over. Look at the two jerseys retired by the BCCI. One is the No. 7 and the other is the No. 10. It shows that Dhoni isn’t just a player, he’s an emotion. The way he connects with people, whenever he meets people anywhere, he’ll talk to them as respectfully as possible. Only after doing all of this, you can create the aura that makes everybody love you.


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