20.03.2019 Author: C.NAMASIVAYAMCricket is a team sport. That was what everyone was made to believe from childhood. But all through these years, the game has sustained its popularity by the presence of individual brilliance of the players. Some great players in the past have proved that they were bigger than the game itself.
Though cricket is a team game, one can’t imagine a particular team without a particular player. One can’t imagine a current Indian team without Virat Kohli, a West Indies team without Chris Gayle and an Afghanistan team without Rashid Khan.
In IPL too, there are certain players who are identified with certain teams. For instance a Lasith Malinga for MI, a Kohli for RCB and a Shaun Marsh for Kings XI Punjab.
Some players with their dominant performances over the years have stamped their face on their respective teams which is very difficult to erase from the eyes of the public. One such association is between the Chennai Super Kings and the legend MS Dhoni.
When CSK first chose Dhoni as their leader in the inaugural IPL auction in 2008, they would have never thought that they would get that much mileage from their prudent investment. Dhoni was a young captain in 2008 having won the inaugural T20I World Cup for India. At that stage, both Dhoni and CSK had a long way to go.
To the delight of the CSK fans, the bond between CSK and Dhoni is still unbroken after 11 seasons of IPL. That brings us to the pertinent question Will CSK be the most popular and followed team without the brand MS Dhoni? Well, certainly not.
As far as the unparalleled success of Team CSK is concerned, so many players have contributed to that. It was not Dhoni alone. But when it comes to CSK being one of the most popular and followed teams in the world, more than half the credit for that should go to Dhoni. There are other players like Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo who are more popular with the crowd. But Dhoni is the face and identity of the Team CSK for the last 11 years.
It was because of Dhoni that CSK could create that many loyal followers of the team. The follower, once he is committed as a CSK fan, always remains one forever. He doesn’t shift his loyalty towards any other team as long as Dhoni is with CSK. The fan’s loyalty was on display when CSK was in the wilderness for 2 years.
Any other team would have lost its popularity in those 2 years. But it was the IPL without CSK that lost the charm in those 2 years. The CSK fans returned to their fold on their team’s comeback in IPL after 2 years. Where else will you find a packed stadium to watch a practice match?
The mute question is - How big is the brand Dhoni to Team CSK?Well, it is certainly bigger than Virat Kohli for RCB and Rohit Sharma for MI. Now, as Dhoni is nearing his retirement, the image gets better and wider. Dhoni is a larger than life image for CSK and its fans.
How is Dhoni different from his other contemporaries? He is different in many ways. For starters, with his immaculate behavior on the field, he is a role model for any young aspiring cricketer to follow. He is the bonafide brand ambassador for whatever team he plays for. He doesn’t stare at the bowlers while at the batting crease and never shows his frustrations against his own teammates.
Dhoni is cool and level headed both in victory and defeat. He is matured enough to take things as it comes. One would never find him blaming the umpires or raving at the opposition. For a youngster, there is a lot to learn from Dhoni the player, Dhoni the leader and Dhoni the person.
What made Dhoni so unique? His near perfection and dedication with his own game which in t urn commands a lot of respect from his teammates and the opposition alike. He doesn’t believe in passing on the buck and understands the fact that his teammates are not as gifted as him. His expectation levels are in tune to that. So many players like R.Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohit Sharma have graduated to International level after playing under Dhoni in CSK.
At CSK, Dhoni has cultivated the habit of winning matches while maintaining the decorum of the game. In IPL history, CSK under Dhoni has won the Fair Play Award 6 times which is the most by any team.
The wonderful thing about Dhoni is that since his early association with CSK, he has never allowed his image to drop down in front of the public eye. On the other hand, his image as a personality has grown sky high for obvious reasons. The Dhoni factor has attracted so many fresh fans towards the franchise.
Team India has already started feeling a sense of emptiness in playing a match without Dhoni after the World Cup. As far as his IPL career is concerned, he might have another 2 years to go. But Dhoni has created a huge impact in CSK that the team will never be the same without him. Dhoni is the jewel in the crown of CSK and Team India.