A smile from MS Dhoni when he received the IPL trophy for the fourth time in Dubai on Friday wasn't just filled with becoming the champions of IPL 2021, but it was also filled with aplomb, grit, and emotion that he had kept the promise what he made a year ago. Thanks to his astute leadership and spirit of captaining one of the most successful teams in the IPL. That smile was his answer to reiterating that time hasn't come to take a call on retiring from the premier league.
The Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders had taken on each other in the finals of IPL 2021 held on Friday in Dubai. Much had been speculated about the favourite team of the season but honestly both the teams deserved to win the title as they had a galore of talents. The Knight Riders won the toss and decided to bowl first following which CSK's Ruturaj Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis came to the crease and pitched a promising opening stand. The duo gave a great opening partnership for the Chennai Super Kings scoring 61 runs together.
Ruturaj was dismissed for 32 runs becoming the highest run-scorer in the series. Robin Uthappa scored a quickfire 31 from just 15 deliveries. Moeen Ali joined the in-form Faf du Plessis once Uthappa got out. Faf was at his prime form and rattled the KKR bowlers from the first over till the last. He scored a FAFulous 86 runs from 59 balls with 7 fours and 3 sixes. Moeen Ali scored a sensible 37 runs. Each and every batsman from the CSK contributed to the team in this super important final that enabled CSK to score a mammoth 193 runs in their 20 overs for the loss of 3 wickets. Though Dubai was friendly for chasing, the weakest middle-order batting line-up of KKR again proved to be a flaw for the team. The fans across and beyond the borders had a nail-biting match with sudden twists and turns.
The KKR openers gave a fantastic start with Venkatesh Iyer making batting look so simple. He scored runs from every corner of the ground and utilized his second chance very well after being dropped by Dhoni at the very beginning of his innings. With Shubman Gill giving him excellent support with a half-century, the KKR were cruising along with 91 for no loss. It was at a stage that CSK is losing control over the game and the wind was breezing towards the Knight Riders to help sail them towards victory. However, the rocking bowling line-up of CSK had applied a strong break and impressively contained KKR from chasing the target. After the dismissal of Gill and Iyer, KKR started to collapse.
Venkatesh Iyer was dismissed for 50 runs and the entire middle order followed in quick succession. No batsman could sustain in the crease and from 91 for no loss, the KKR went to a stage where they were 125 for 8 with every recognized batsman dismissed. The chasers were to get 30 runs in the final over and Bravo made sure that the trophy is coming home with the CSK. The KKR were reduced to 165 for 9 in their 20 overs and Chennai Super Kings won by 27 runs in a historical victory, lifting the IPL trophy for the fourth time. Faf du Plessis was adjudged the Player of the Match and Harshal Patel was the Player of the Series.
Social media pages had gone yellow and the crackers had decorated not only the skies of Dubai but also in Chennai and across the country as the fans had celebrated the glorifying victory and winning the IPL title after three years. Dhoni's fleet had been successful from the beginning and his captaincy had a sharp adoption of changing circumstances in the UAE leg and displayed the super game and super treat till winning the title. More than celebrating the victory, the CSK had fans celebrated the determination of Dhoni by reminiscing the promise that he made in 2020.
Besides the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 was disastrous for the CSK as it was the first team in the IPL's last year season to get eliminated with flawed performances. The Super Kings were at the bottom of the points table and walked out from the season without entering the playoffs for the first time. After an awful exit, Dhoni made a promise that the CSK would come back stronger in the IPL 2021. To keep his promise, Dhoni had captained the team with prowess and delivered exultant results from the beginning of the IPL 2021. Dhoni's fleet had put a strong fight both on the Indian and UAE surfaces and successfully progressed towards the finals.
When CSK won the finals by defeating the KKR and lift the trophy for the fourth time, Dhoni was a happy man as he did what he said by keeping his promise. With a historical victory, it is Yellove everywhere as the fans relish the roaring comeback of the team and winning the trophy within a year of bracing up a disastrous season. Dhoni received the trophy from BCCI President Sourav Ganguly and Secretary Jay Shah and his smile during the ceremony had sparkingly shown the master of the cricket. As the battle comes to an end with the victory, Dhoni faced the same question that he was asked last year - Is it his last IPL season?
While speaking at the presentation ceremony, Dhoni added more value to his sportsmanship by talking about and commending the opponent. He said, "Before I start talking about CSK, it's important I talk about KKR. For the position they were in after the first phase, it is very difficult to come back and do what they have done. If any team deserved to win the IPL this year, I feel it was KKR. I think the break helped them. Coming to CSK, we shuffled a few players, we used them in different ways. Important was to take responsibility. I felt we had match-winners game after game. People who were in form they ensured they were scoring throughout the tournament and others were chipping in."
"Every final is special. Yes, we are the most consistent team looking at the stats but we have also lost finals. Not letting the opposition in is something we consciously wanted to improve. I hope CSK in the coming years will be known for that. We don't really talk a lot. It's more one on one. Our practice sessions are more like a meeting session also. People are more open that way. The moment you talk in a team room there is a bit of pressure. You can't deliver without a good team. We also have great individuals as well", Dhoni added. In his message to the fans, he said, "I would love to thank the fans. We are in Dubai now. Even when we played in South Africa, we always got a good amount of support. Thanks to all of them. It feels like Chepauk, Chennai. Hopefully, we will come back to play for the Chennai fans next year."
On the front of his IPL retirement, Dhoni hasn't closed his doors and hinted that he will play in the next season. "We have to decide what is good for CSK, you know. It's not really about me being there in the top three or four, whatever the retained number of players is." Dhoni told Star Sports. When Harsha said Dhoni has left a legacy behind the CSK, he was quick to interrupt him saying "I still haven't left behind". These words made the day for the millions of CSK fans around the world, more than CSK winning the trophy. The fans are trending the hashtag #DefinitelyNot on social media to imply that the current season was definitely not the last season for Dhoni.
Apart from winning the finals, Dhoni has also scripted a new history. He has become the first player to play 300 T20 matches as the final was his 300th T20 match and now become the oldest captain in the history of the IPL to win the trophy. Dhoni is also only the second captain in the IPL history to win more than three titles. By becoming the oldest captain to win the IPL trophy, Dhoni had broken Shane Warne's record as the former Australian leg-spinner was 39 when he led Rajasthan Royals to win the IPL debut season in 2008. Significantly, Warne's Royals had defeated Dhoni's Super Kings in 2008 to lift the trophy. Dhoni was 29 when he won the first IPL title in 2010 and he was 38 in 2018 when he won the third one, and now he is 40 when he had bagged the fourth IPL title. As IPL 2021, he will now be mentoring the Indian T20 team for the upcoming T20 world cup.