MS Dhoni’s tactical acumen, cool demeanour and a crucial stumping helped the Chennai Super Kings win a record-equalling fifth IPL title.
Chennai edged out 2022 champions the Gujarat Titans by five wickets in a last-ball thriller that started on Monday and ended past 1:30am Tuesday.
Fans of 41-year-old Dhoni and his team celebrated on the streets all night.
The final in Ahmedabad was played on the reserve day after a washout on Sunday and, after more wet weather, Chennai chased down a rain-revised target of 171 in 15 overs.
Ravindra Jadeja scored 10 runs off the final two balls in front of 80,000 fans at the world’s largest cricket stadium.
Former India captain Dhoni, who looks set to play on despite earlier suggestions that this might be his last hurrah, was out first ball in Chennai’s reply.
But the wicketkeeper-batsman also pulled off a masterful stumping of Gujarat’s danger man Shubman Gill and his experience, calm and sheer presence helped see Chennai home.
He has now equalled Rohit Sharma’s record of five titles as captain – Rohit for the Mumbai Indians – but pundits believe Dhoni is in a league of his own.
“If you are comparing on titles you have got a discussion,” former Australia batsman and ex-IPL coach Tom Moody said on ESPNCricinfo. “But if you are talking about captaincy, there is no grand final.”
Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar agreed, saying: “This kind of leadership will rarely be seen.”
Dhoni is India’s most successful Test captain and has had a glittering career that included winning two World Cups.
He retired from international duty in 2020 but continued with the IPL, albeit with a bad knee and some lacklustre batting performances this term.
Having previously hinted this might be his last IPL, he suggested after the final that he will return for one more crack in 2024.
“The way [fans have] shown their love and affection, I think that’s something I need to do for them,” he said.
Rain halted play on Monday as a brief but torrential downpour left one of the side pitches soaked. Ground staff needed over two hours to get the game restarted after midnight.
Fans kept patient for the second straight day, with chants of “Dhoni, Dhoni” reverberating through the night air, before Jadeja brought the house down with a six and four to seal victory.
Videos of “Captain Cool” during the nerve-jangling final moments showed him somehow keeping calm – outwardly at least.
It appeared that he closed his eyes for the last ball when Jadeja needed a boundary to win.
Dhoni then hugged Jadeja and lifted him off his feet.
“As calm as he is and cool as he is, still it means a lot,” Chennai coach Stephen Fleming told reporters. “The franchise, as we know, is very dear to his heart and he gives a lot to it.
“This stage of his career to win another IPL and lead a team like he has, I think it is great credit to him.”
Dhoni joined Chennai as captain from the inaugural edition and has previously led them to titles in 2010, 2011, 2018 and 2021.
“He is an amazing human being really. The biggest strength he has got is this ability to take pressure off players, particularly young players,” Chennai batting coach Mike Hussey said.
“He is cool, calm and collected – like we all know – and tactically very smart.”
© Agence France-Presse