IPL 2022 – Chennai Super Kings
Speaking to ESPNcricinfo, Super Kings CEO Kasi Viswanathan said that Dhoni wanted the leadership “transition to be smooth” and felt Jadeja was ready to take up the mantle for the team, which won its fourth IPL title last year. Viswanathan said that Dhoni had announced the decision on Thursday at the team meeting before the squad left for training – the defending champions will play the tournament opener against Kolkata Knight Riders on March 26 at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium.
“MS Dhoni was thinking about it,” Viswanathan said. “He felt it is the right time to hand over captaincy to Jaddu [Jadeja]. He feels Jaddu is also in prime form of his career and it is the ideal time for him lead CSK. What will be good for the franchise must be [in the] back of his mind.”
Speaking to the Super Kings’ social media team, Jadeja said, “Feeling good. At the same time, I also need to fill in big boots like Mahi bhai, [he] has already set the big legacy so I need to carry [that] forward. I don’t need to worry too much because he is here so whatever I have a question to ask, I’ll definitely go to him. He’ll be my go-to person. He was and still he is today, so I’m not worried too much.”
Viswanathan said that while Dhoni had not personally informed him of his decision in advance, it was not a surprise to the franchise, and they had discussed the subject – the succession plan – even before the 2021 IPL and had alerted Jadeja at the time. “He [Jadeja] has been talked to earlier. Even last year, there was a proposal. We knew he would be the best person to succeed MS.”
Viswanathan reckoned that Dhoni was waiting for the opportune time, just as he had when handing over the reins of the Indian team to Virat Kohli. “It is similar to when he handed Virat the captaincy after having groomed him for a few years at international level. Similarly, he wanted the transition to be smooth.”
Viswanathan added that the franchise had immense confidence in Jadeja’s leadership. “Jaddu has the potential to do well for the franchise,” he said. “[He is a] good all-round cricketer, playing his best, he can get the team around. And MS’ guidance will always be there. This will be a good induction programme.”
Recognised as one of India’s great all-format captains, Dhoni’s leadership legacy at Super Kings is similarly phenomenal. After he led India to the title at the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, former Tamil Nadu captain, the late VB Chandrasekhar, had told Super Kings owner N Srinivasan about Dhoni’s worth as a leader. Srinivasan had then asked Chandrasekhar, who was at the Super Kings table at the inaugural IPL auction, to acquire Dhoni at any cost.
Dhoni has, over the years, repaid that faith with interest. In the 213 matches in which he led Super Kings – in the IPL and the now-defunct Champions League T20 – there were 130 wins, 81 losses, and, crucially, six titles: four at the IPL and two at the CLT20.
Jadeja – new to captaincy, but no lack of leadership experience
As for Jadeja, he is totally inexperienced as a captain. Jadeja, 34, has never led a team at the senior level; he was the captain of an India Under-19 team in 2007.
In the last two years at Super Kings, Jadeja has been the key finisher with the bat, a role that Dhoni had played for a long time. Between the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Jadeja scored 459 runs at an average of 57.37 and a robust strike rate of 157.73. That included two half-centuries, the only times Jadeja has reached the landmark in a career of more than 270 matches. During this period, he also bagged 19 wickets in 30 matches at an economy of 7.78.
While he might not have clocked enough captaincy hours, Jadeja has immense experience playing alongside Dhoni at Super Kings – 131 matches, since joining the team in 2012. And that, Viswanathan said that Dhoni felt, made Jadeja the best successor for him, considering he has the heft as a player, as a leader, as an allrounder, and as a matchwinner.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo