He might be at the twilight of his professional cricket career, but MS Dhoni’s influence as a leader hasn’t gone down one bit.
Last week, the 41-year-old led Chennai Super Kings (CSK) to a record-equalling fifth IPL title by defeating Gujarat Titans (GT) in the final at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.
Besides his captaincy, Dhoni’s wicketkeeping was top-notch during the triumphant campaign and he played a crucial role with the bat lower down the order despite nursing a knee injury.
Speculations were rife that Dhoni will call time on his IPL career after the 2023 season. However, the CSK skipper vowed to return next season fitness-permitting.
Meanwhile, Pakistan pace legend Wasim Akram has said Dhoni could have played for India for some more time but he took the right decision to retire from international cricket in August 2020.
It is pertinent to mention here that Dhoni's last match for India was the 2019 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand. He called time on his international career more than a year after his last appearance.
“He could have still played for India if he wanted to, considering his performances. But, he retired at the right time and that’s why Dhoni is Dhoni," Akram told Sportskeeda.
The former Pakistan captain expects Dhoni to be back next year. "I think he’ll come back stronger next year."
When asked why he thinks so, Wasim explained: “He has the experience, calmness and is physically very fit. Most importantly, he has the passion to play. No matter how fit you are, if you don’t have the passion, you will not be able to come up with performances.”
“He is physically fit and did not sit out of any matches [in IPL 2023]. After a certain age, making a comeback is difficult. But, knowing Dhoni, if that passion is still there, he will train. Match practice is very important, but I am sure he knows what he is doing."
Wasim Akram also termed Dhoni as a "gem of a cricketer". “He is a gem of a cricketer, a gem of a captain. To win five IPLs with one team is a massive deal. It is such a big tournament. There are 10 teams and you have to play 14 matches each to qualify [for the playoffs]. They started slowly, but you give Dhoni any team, he takes them to the final and makes them win it.
“CSK, five titles is dream stuff. They have become a legendary team and that too in one of the biggest and most difficult tournaments in world cricket.
“Whenever Dhoni quits cricket, I am sure he will stay with CSK as a mentor, a president or whatever the word is. I don’t think Dhoni and CSK will separate," Akram remarked.