How MS Dhoni broke the captaincy news? An early morning phone, later a breakfast table talk | Ipl News

MS Dhoni and Ruturaj gaikwad CSK

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It was sometime on Thursday morning that MS Dhoni, in his typical style, broke the news to the Chennai Super Kings management after shocking his teammates and support staff over the breakfast table. Post that meeting, Dhoni is understood to have dialled the franchise management, informing of his decision to hand over the captaincy to Ruturaj Gaikwad, a player CSK CEO Kasi Viswanathan said was being groomed for the role for the last two years.

Though the decision came out of the blue, the franchise seems to be far better placed to handle the transition, unlike in 2022 when Ravindra Jadeja took over the reins before stepping aside midway through the IPL. Back then, the franchise seemed to have been taken aback by Dhoni’s decision, but this time head coach Stephen Fleming said they were far better placed.

“Well, the big thing about a couple of years ago was that we probably weren’t ready for MS to move aside. What that did was probably shake us up as a leadership group and make the coaches look at the possibility when he does go. Up until that stage, it was almost unthinkable, but it sowed the seed. So, we’ve worked pretty hard on making sure that any mistakes that were made then aren’t made again,” Fleming said.

In a team that has a big star cast and players of international repute, the decision to hand the captaincy to Gaikwad, a player familiar with the set-up and management, fits their philosophy. A very calm person, he has admirers for the way he deals with high-pressure situations. The 27-year-old joined the franchise ahead of the 2019 season at a base price of Rs 20 lakh and since then, has impressed those in the dressing room as well as at the India Cements headquarters. After winning the Orange Cap in 2022, ahead of a big auction, Gaikwad was one of the four players retained by CSK for Rs 6 crore. That makes him the captain with the lowest price tag.

The Indian Express understands that Gaikwad was well aware that he will be the successor to Dhoni. But according to those close to the player, even when he left Pune to join the pre-season camp on March 3, Gaikwad was only expecting to take charge next season after Dhoni hung up his boots. But it is understood that Dhoni wanted to groom Gaikwad in the role while he was still around as a player.

“He informed us of the decision this morning before the captain’s meeting after talking to the head coach,” Viswanathan told The Indian Express. “Mr N Srinivasan has given the charge to Dhoni and whatever decision he takes, will always be in the best interest of the franchise. And he has been grooming Gaikwad for the last couple of years on the field as well as outside. Dhoni felt this is the right time to hand over to him as he felt Gaikwad is also ready,” Viswanathan said.

Dhoni Rutu Chennai Super Kings (CSK) captain Ruturaj Gaikwad with teammate MS Dhoni during a training session ahead of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 cricket match between Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bengaluru, at MA Chidambaram Stadium, in Chennai, Thursday, March 21, 2024. (PTI Photo)

Fleming concurred. “It was MS’ call with a lot of consideration and with a view to the future on the back of a good season last year. The timing was good. Behind the scenes, Rutu and others have been on a captaincy grooming process, looking forward to days like this and the opportunities coming up, but MS is the best judge and he felt the time was right,” he said.

Festive offer

The chosen one

Ever since the decision to hand Jadeja the captaincy didn’t go according to plans, it is understood that Dhoni had earmarked Gaikwad as the future captain. Though they brought in Ben Stokes as an alternate option, the feeling in the franchise has been that Gaikwad would take charge at some point. During the 2022/2023 edition of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, with Maharashtra playing their league matches in Ranchi, Gaikwad had spent each evening in Dhoni’s company. And it was in those meetings that Dhoni informed Gaikwad about how the franchise was looking at him as a successor.

Gaikwad used the tournament to test himself for the role as well. “From gameplans to deciding our practice sessions, we saw a different Rutu that year. He basically ran the team. We haven’t seen anyone do that before or after. This time when he left for Chennai, he knew he would be the successor, but never thought this would be the season,” Azim Kazi, Gaikwad’s close friend and teammate at Maharashtra, said.

Apart from being a self-assured player, the management has also noticed Gaikwad’s leadership qualities in the captaincy skills programme that Fleming conducts throughout every season. Over the last few years, the New Zealander has been handling this programme, with several domestic players showing active interest to attend these sessions which are not mandatory. These sessions, apart from talking about on-field strategies, also delve into communication and decision-making skills by sticking to philosophies that the team adheres to.

“There’s always opportunities to talk about leadership with players and I guess that having the opportunity to captain New Zealand puts me in a position where I can speak with some authority. So I’ve really enjoyed talking with not only Rutu but others about captaincy skills and leadership and how you go about it. So, it’s part of the two months that we enjoy. And it’s for opportunities like this that you see a young player come through and now get the opportunity to lead our franchise. We’re very proud of it,” Fleming said.

Almost 50 years back, a certain Gaikwad (Shivaji Rao Gaikwad) born in Maharashtra came to Chennai and ruled the hearts as Rajinikanth. Chennai surely won’t mind a repeat.

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