Cricket-Dhoni relinquishes captaincy as Chennai gear up for IPL defence

FILE PHOTO: Cricket – ICC Cricket World Cup – India Nets – Edgbaston, Birmingham, Britain – June 29, 2019 India’s MS Dhoni during nets Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers/ FILE PHOTO

BENGALURU (Reuters) -Chennai Super Kings will launch their Indian Premier League (IPL) title defence against Royal Challengers Bengaluru in what could be Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s final year in the lucrative Twenty20 competition after he stepped down as captain on Thursday.

Dhoni played his last international in 2019 but remains one of the country’s most popular players and while the 42-year-old showed some signs of slowing down last season he still helped Chennai to win a fifth title to match Mumbai Indians’ haul.

Media reports have said 2024 could be the former India skipper’s swansong and the wicketkeeper-batsman, who had knee surgery last year, handed over the captaincy to batsman Ruturaj Gaikwad ahead of Friday’s opener.

Dhoni has captained Chennai since the inception of the league in 2008 and the team gave no details about his future beyond this year’s edition.

“It was (Dhoni’s decision) with a lot of consideration and one view to the future on the back of a good season last year,” Chennai coach Stephen Fleming told reporters.

“The timing was good. Behind the scenes, Ruturaj and others have been on a, say, a captaincy-grooming process, looking forward to days like this… but (Dhoni) is the best judge and he felt the time was right.”

Gaikwad had played 52 IPL matches for Chennai since 2019, the franchise said in a statement.

While Chennai may soon have to prepare for life without their talisman, Mumbai made one of the most talked-about pre-season moves by signing Hardik Pandya to take over the captaincy from India team mate Rohit Sharma.

Pandya showed his leadership qualities by guiding Gujarat to the 2022 title but may find Mumbai fans harder to win over after the team’s decision to remove the league’s joint most successful captain from his role.

Having regained fitness after an ankle injury sustained at the 50-overs World Cup in October, Pandya will also look to hit form before the T20 World Cup which will be staged in West Indies and the United States from June.

Several top England players will be absent from the IPL, with Delhi Capitals batsman Harry Brook skipping the tournament after the death of his grandmother, while Mark Wood, Gus Atkinson and Jason Roy are managing their workloads.

Ben Stokes and Joe Root opted out of the player auction in December, depriving the IPL of more world-class names, but Australia will be well represented, most notably by big-money signings Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc.

Starc became the most expensive player in the league’s history, attracting an eye-watering $2.98-million bid from Kolkata Knight Riders after national team skipper Cummins briefly held that honour as Sunrisers Hyderabad bid $2.46 million for him.

Bengaluru’s Virat Kohli will add to the league’s star power and is expected to return against Chennai after missing India’s 4-1 test series win over England for personal reasons.

India wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant will also be back for Delhi Capitals after his near-fatal car accident in December 2022 but pace bowler Mohammed Shami will miss Gujarat’s campaign after a heel operation.

Friday’s opening game will be followed by double-headers at the weekend, with 21 matches set to take place across 10 cities by April 7.

The Indian cricket board will release the remainder of the schedule after considering general election dates.



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