During the current Indian Premier League — the multi-billion dollar cricket juggernaut that overtakes the sport annually during April and May — it’s been a farewell tour for national hero MS Dhoni.
Such popularity and reverence in cricket-crazed India, the 41-year-old Dhoni may be the only player to rival the sports megastar Virat Kohli, who has yet again fallen short of his dream of winning an IPL title.
While Kohli is bombastic and in your face — and not shy about flaunting his private life on his hugely followed social media accounts — the down-to-earth Dhoni is much less so and prefers to let a little go.
He’s the cricket equivalent of former NBA star Tim Duncan only his stardom in India is something akin to LeBron James – like the stature of Dhoni whose life story was made into a major Bollywood movie.
So it comes as no surprise that this IPL season has largely revolved around Dhoni with fans – even of rival teams – cheering him on amidst surreal scenes with an uncertain future. His games have drawn huge crowds across stadiums with stands strewn with his jersey as a tribute.
While Donnie is clearly affected by the emotion, she is not someone who wants to attract the spotlight. Not his style of passing retirement hints as LeBron did in the aftermath of the Lakers season finale.
Dhoni has announced his retirement from international cricket via social media and someone suspects he will do something similar with IPL. He certainly won’t drop the bomb – which will have ripples throughout the billionaires and beyond – before or after Sunday’s IPL final between Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Titans.
The mini auction will take place around December, so why deal with a headache now. “I have plenty of time to make a decision,” Donny said recently, adding that he has “eight to nine months” to make a call.
However, for now, Dhoni is only focused on leading the Super Kings to a title on the biggest day in the Indian sports calendar – something that is more obsessively followed than the Super Bowl in the US.
After leading the Super Kings this far, it was a fine performance from the irresistible Dhoni who led this incredible campaign like he did when he led mighty India to 50 and 20 over the World Cup.
Even at his advanced age, and suffering from creaking knees, Donnie still manages to make all the right moves and his drive has inspired the Super Kings to be on the cusp of a fifth title.
His calm demeanor remains his hallmark as he calmly plans under pressure for the IPL, a cauldron like no other in the world of cricket.
Time and time again, the skilful Donny takes a step or two forward, and his commanding power in this tournament reinforces the widely held belief that the captaincy is more important in the short T20 format than his longer counterparts.
After conceding the order to No. 8, Dhoni’s famous big hitting wasn’t needed as often, but he could still hit the ball when necessary to ensure his fans’ wishes were met.
The spotlight in the IPL final will be expected on Dhoni as everyone will likely be looking for clues as to whether this will be the last time this legendary cricketer takes to the field for a professional match.
But it could be a futile exercise as Dhoni will likely have a semi-automatic look as he focuses on winning the final prize in India.
If the Super Kings win out, perhaps, MS Dhoni will allow a wry smile to break out amidst the pandemonium.