MI vs CSK: MS Dhoni, the showman and mastermind, grabs headlines in IPL Clasico

IPL 2024, MI vs CSK: MS Dhoni produced another chapter in his glorious Wankhede legacy as he stole the show with a cameo for the ages on Sunday. The 42-year-young wicketkeeper proved to be the difference between the two arch-rivals in an IPL Clasico that lived up to the hype.
MI vs CSK: MS Dhoni, the showman and mastermind, grabs headlines in IPL Clasico
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Who writes his scripts? If Sunday's outing was indeed his last at the iconic Wankhede Stadium, it is a fitting farewell. 13 years after that iconic World Cup-winning six, MS Dhoni gave his fans 3 more to cherish for a lifetime as the '42-year-young' wicketkeeper proved to be the difference between the two teams in IPL's biggest blockbuster -- the Clasico between CSK and MI. He may not be the captain of the Super Kings anymore, but Dhoni proved that he is still the master of rising to the occasion and grabbing the headlines with just his cameos.

"It was like a World Cup final," quipped Ravi Shastri when talking about the traffic snarl along the Marine Drive in the lead-up to the big IPL 2024 clash. MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma were going head-to-head, albeit not as captains. CSK and MI, both 5-time champions, met in the Clasico with new leaders at the helm and the Sunday evening spectacle certainly lived up to expectations.

Yes, Rohit Sharma hit his 2nd IPL hundred in a fine lone warrior's effort. Shivam Dube showed he is not just a one-trick pony. Young Ruturaj Gaikwad thrived under pressure in his first match as captain at the Wankhede cauldron. Matheesha Pathirana, 'the Baby Malinga', gave MI a taste of their own medicine. Yet, Dhoni produced the headline act, giving his fans a memory for a lifetime, just like he did at the same venue on that fateful night as India's captain.

CSK were looking for some late impetus after Jasprit Bumrah closed out the 19th by giving away just 7 runs. CSK had 180 on the board with 6 deliveries to go and they knew that anything less than 200 wouldn't be enough against the might of MI, especially at the Wankhede Stadium. Only a couple of evenings ago, MI flexed their batting muscles, chasing down 197 in just 15.3 overs. It was necessary to also have the psychological advantage of a score in excess of 200.

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MI vs CSK: MS Dhoni, the showman and mastermind, grabs headlines in IPL Clasico

And that's when MS Dhoni walked out to bat, bringing the roof down at the Wankhede Stadium. The crowd erupted while waiting in anticipation as the TV cameras zoomed into a shadow-practising Dhoni in the dressing room and the moment arrived, the decibel levels peaked. With just 4 balls left in the CSK innings, 'Thala' walked out and produced a show worthy of all the whistles that came his way.

MS Dhoni pumped one into the long-off stands in the very first delivery he faced. It looked like a mishit, but the ball had enough wings to sail over the boundary rope, leaving the CSK fans at the Wankhede Stadium in a frenzy. The next one was a length delivery bowled in Dhoni's slot from Hardik and the former CSK captain heaved it over the mid-wicket fence in vintage style. The incredible bat swing came alive once again and it was a double delight for the fans. By the time, MS Dhoni parked the third one, a full toss on his pads, into the square-leg stands, even the MI fans in the stadium went berserk, celebrating the showman in the middle.

"The young wicketkeeper scoring those three sixes helped us a lot, that proved to be the difference. We needed those 10-15 extra runs for this kind of venue." Ruturaj Gaikwad said, heaping praise on the 42-year-young wicketkeeper from Ranchi.

CSK's score read 206 at the end of 20 overs. 26 runs were collected in the last over. 20 of them came from MS Dhoni's 4-ball stay. And the momentum was certainly in the visiting team's favour. Yet, even the ardent CSK fans were fearing the might of MI's power-packed batting unit. Little did they know that the man with the Midas touch would work his magic on the field despite not being the captain of the side.

MI scored 70 in the first 7 overs. But no one in the CSK camp panicked. It looked like Rohit Sharma and Ishan Kishan would do to CSK what they did to RCB, but Matheesha Pathirana, the Sri Lanka slinger, shifted the momentum in favour of the Super Kings, getting the big wickets of Ishan and Suryakumar Yadav, for a 2-ball duck. However, the nerves were still there, at least for the CSK fans, as Rohit and Tilak Varma continued the onslaught taking MI to 130 in the 14th over.

Then came the famous CSK choke. With MS Dhoni helping Ruturaj Gaikwad with the field placements and the bowling changes, CSK showed they were the tactically superior team on the night. CSK had part-time options in Dayl Mitchell and Rachin Ravindra, but they stuck to their 5 bowlers, backing the likes of Shardul Thakur and Tushar Deshpande despite their expensive first spells after Matheesha Pathirana got Tilak Varma to snap a dangerous stand.

CSK's use of the long boundaries and bowling to the field had 'MS Dhoni effect' written all over it. Yes, Dhoni was not as involved as he had been over the years in terms of field placements and bowling changes. But, everyone, including the opposition captain, knew that the best brain in the IPL was at work. Shardul and Deshpande took the game further away from MI by bowling the 15th and 16th overs, conceding just 2 and 3 runs, respectively. With 72 to defend in the last 4 overs, CSK got the job done with 2 quality death-overs specialists in Mustafizur Rahman and Pathirana.

Hardik Pandya, the losing captain, acknowledged that CSK used the dimensions of the ground wonderfully well and their bowlers stepped up to deliver while crediting the "man behind the stumps".

"The target was definitely gettable, but they bowled pretty well. Pathirana was the difference. They were smart with their plans and their approach. They got the hang of the conditions, there's a man behind the stumps who tells them what's working, that help," Hardik said, doffing his hat to the master tactician.

The 39th instalment of the IPL Clasico between MI and CSK was paisa-vasool and MS Dhoni's headline-grabbing cameo will be cherished for the ages!

Source: India Today

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