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Dhoni steps aside, hands over CSK captaincy to Jadeja
 
Mumbai: Twelve seasons, four title triumphs and five runner-up finishes later, the iconic Mahendra Singh Dhoni has decided to hand over the captaincy of Chennai Super Kings to his trusted lieutenant, Ravindra Jadeja.

However, in a brief statement, CSK said the 40-year-old will continue to represent the franchise for the "season and beyond", having led one of the most successful IPL sides since the tournament's inception in 2008 -- barring the two seasons when the team was suspended in the wake of the spot-fixing scandal.

"MS Dhoni has decided to hand over the leadership of Chennai Super Kings and picked Ravindra Jadeja to lead the team. Jadeja, who has been an integral part of Chennai Super Kings since 2012, will only be the third player to lead CSK," said CSK in a statement on Thursday.

"Dhoni will continue to represent Chennai Super Kings this season and beyond," the franchise added.

Dhoni, 40, who had announced his international retirement on August 15, 2020, had led CSK to their fourth title last season. CSK play KKR in the IPL 2022 opener here on Saturday.

The World Cup-winning captain has always been his own man when it comes to leaving captaincy or announcing his retirement.

He quit Test captaincy and also the five-day game in the middle of a series in Australia in 2014. And when he was sure Virat Kohli was ready to lead India across formats, Dhoni made way for him in 2017.

Though the inspirational leader carried on to play the IPL after announcing his international retirement in his inimitable style, his decision to hand over the CSK leadership to Jadeja was not entirely surprising.

Dhoni knew that he can't go on forever and the 33-year-old Jadeja, who is at the peak of his prowess, is ready for the challenge. The southpaw was CSK's number one retention before the auction ahead of Dhoni, Moeen Ali and Ruturaj Gaekwad.

The announcement still took CSK CEO Kasi Viswanathan by surprise but he said "if Dhoni takes a decision, it has to be in the best interest of the team".

"See whatever decision MS takes it is in the best interest of the team. So there is nothing to worry for us. We respect his decision. He is always there to guide us," Viswanthan told PTI.

"He has always been the guiding force and will continue to be the guiding force."

Asked if the 2022 edition can be his last season, the CEO added: "I don't think it will be his last season. As long as he is fit, we want him to play. That is my wish, I don't know about him (what he thinks)."

On Jadeja's ascension as captain, Viswanathan said the all-rounder is primed to do well.

"See Jaddu will do well. He is probably in the best form of his career. He will definitely do well under MS' guidance. Jaddu has been with us for 10 years and he very well knows the team culture," he added.

It can be safely said that CSK couldn't have become the brand it became without the charismatic Dhoni, who developed a special bond with the team and its fanatical fans.

Even when representing Pune Supergiant, when CSK was suspended for two seasons in 2016 and 2017, Dhoni's heart remained with Chennai.

"I will be lying if I say that I have moved on. I cannot suddenly say that I am very excited to play for a new team and it will be wrong if I don't give credit to CSK and the people of Chennai for the last eight years of love and affection that they have given to the team and me," Dhoni had said ahead of the 2016 edition.

His stature grew as he scripted CSK's fairytale comeback after a two-year suspension, leading the team to its third title in 2018.

Mumbai Indians are the most successful IPL franchise with five titles but they have not been able to match CSK's consistency in reaching the play-offs.

Branded the Dad's Army due to an ageing squad in 2020, when CSK failed to reach the play-offs for the very first time, Dhoni and Co made a remarkable comeback last season to win their fourth title.

He may not have been the finisher he was in his heydays but the skipper was able to galvanise the team and take it to the distance in the presence of emerging stars.

Under his leadership, CSK have registered a record 121 wins in 204 matches in the IPL.


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