The million dollar question: With CSK gone, what will happen to MS Dhoni?

MS Dhoni singing ‘we are f****** Chennai’. Dhoni saying #WhistlePodu. Dhoni doing a ‘mind it’. Dhoni in yellow. Dhoni in a veshti. Dhoni with N Srinivasan. Dhoni with Gurunath Meiyappan. Dhoni with Fleming. Dhoni with the trophy. If it’s Chennai Super Kings, it’s Dhoni. He is their face. He is their body. He is their soul. It’s hard to imagine the Indian Premier League without Dhoni and CSK — and it is really hard to take Dhoni out of Chennai.
Dhoni is the Chennai Super Kings and now that the India Cements-owned team are in trouble, the million dollar question is: where does the suspension of CSK leave the man who has become synonymous with the team itself?
If CSK is the IPL’s most-popular team, then a huge slice of credit must go to Dhoni. He has been ever present — they bought him in the first auction — the most expensive buy that season — and he has proved to be totally worthy of the investment. His reputation draws big stars to the team and keeps them there, his captaincy wins them trophies and his presence has helped establish a legacy.
But given the current predicament of the team, is there a chance that he might sport different colours or will he perhaps be like Gianluigi Buffon (the Italian and Juventus keeper) and take the fall — hang around for two years even as the club comes back from suspension? If he does, the 34-year-old India ODI skipper shall endear himself to Chennai fans but it seems highly unlikely.
For now, CSK officials have been trying to get in touch with him — he famously doesn’t pick up the phone. There are times when even Srinivasan has had to call Suresh Raina to get in touch with the Indian skipper — or, remember the trouble VVS Laxman had before he announced his retirement.
But CSK officials managed to find someone to convey the message.
“There is no question of pressurising from our end. It’s his profession and he will decide what he wants to do. But yes, Dhoni has been deeply associated with our brand right from the beginning and we would like to discuss our plans with him,” the CSK source told the Times of India.
But while CSK officials are worried about where their golden boy might be headed, and whether they will ever get him back, the other teams are rubbing their hands in anticipation.
“It is a very tricky situation for all the other franchises because you will be tempted to put a lot of your players into the auction next year, go in with Rs 45-50 crore and try to get a Dhoni, Raina, Steve Smith or Ajinkya Rahane. So all franchises are waiting with bated breath,” said a top official of one of the IPL teams to The Indian Express.
With Sachin Tendulkar gone, Dhoni is the biggest star in Indian cricket. And that alone is worth a ton of money in terms of endorsements and marketing heft for the teams. Having him in the squad raises the profile of the team exponentially and it also gives the team’s fans some bragging rights. Everybody who can afford him, will want him.
The Mumbai Mirror suggests that in the inner CSK circle, a more radical option is being spoken about.
“India’s ODI skipper is not new to the sports business. He is a known entrepreneur in the sports industry. He owns a hockey team in the Hockey India League and is also involved in the Indian Super League having come on board (with) the Chennaiyin FC management. It is being said that (by) taking over the Chennai team, Dhoni will save himself from representing another team,” said the Mirror report.
In the past, if Dhoni ever got in a beef, Srinivasan was there to take care of business. Not that it was needed — Dhoni wasn’t the kind to court trouble. He didn’t have to fight and he understood that. But this time round, their futures are not exactly aligned and that makes it a difficult decision.
Chennai means a lot of things to a lot of people. But to Dhoni, it is his home away from home. A place he calls his own. And for that reason alone, the CSK fans will hope he stays.

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