Last year, on the eve of the IPL auction, MS Dhoni was cut as Rising Pune Supergiant captain following the team's poor showing in 2016. In IPL 2017, he went on to make 290 runs from 15 innings at 26, struggling for momentum most of the time - his strike rate was 116. Fast forward to May 5, 2018. Dhoni's Chennai Super Kings are serious contenders to finish top of the table, and Dhoni the batsman has been key to their fortunes. He currently sits at No. 3 on the runs charts, with 360 from 10 innings at 90; most importantly, he has been striking at 166. Fair to say, Dhoni the IPL batsman has had quite the revival. According to CSK batting coach Michael Hussey, "it's the best I've seen him play for quite a few years".
Hussey's comments came after CSK's six-wicket win over RCB in Pune, where Dhoni - yet again - finished the chase off with 31 not out off 23. Speaking at the post-match press conference, he had good things to say of Dhoni's appeal on and off the field: "[Dhoni] is such an important player for the team. He's the captain for one, he's a fantastic keeper, he's been in unbelievable form with the bat. It's probably the best I've seen him play for quite a few years.
"He's [a big draw] away from the game as well. We saw the packed house tonight, so many Dhoni fans out there. He's the key man in our [CSK's] whole organisation both on and off the field. What I like about him, apart from watching him play in the middle, is the character of the man off the field. He's very calm and relaxed."
Allrounder Ravindra Jadeja echoed Hussey's opinion, saying in an interview posted on the IPL website that Dhoni binds the team together. "Our team has one motto: irrespective of win or loss, we shouldn't blame a single person for it. It's our mantra," Jadeja said. "Mahi [Dhoni] bhai keeps saying that we should swim or sink together. It's great that our leader is giving us so much confidence."
Jadeja was one of the key performers for CSK against RCB, finally coming good with the ball 10 games into his tournament. He claimed 3 for 18, including the wicket of RCB and India captain Virat Kohli with the first ball he bowled. Hussey applauded Jadeja for his performance, saying that despite his patchy form he had to be given a long rope since he had a "difficult role to play" for the team. "I think it's about keeping Jadeja in a positive frame of mind," he said. "It's the nature of T20 cricket. If you look at his role, it is one of the difficult roles to play in T20s.
"With the bat he might come in with a handful of balls left to play and everyone expects him to hit sixes. It's not easy to come straight out and hit the ball out of the park. With the ball, he hasn't got doosras and mystery balls. He does what he does, and he does it very well. Sometimes it doesn't go your way. From outside, it's about keeping him positive and keep backing him."
Jadeja said he was happy to finally contribute to a victory, especially with the wicket of Kohli. "Feels so good that after so many days I bowled a good spell and put up a winning performance for the team. It personally feels good that what I was working on in the nets all these days finally worked well for me in this match.
"When I saw Virat Kohli on strike I thought, since a right-hander is on strike, I'll bowl normally as the wicket looked dry. I was trying to bowl in the right area. I never thought I'd get his wicket in the first ball because he's a good batsman and always reads the wicket well. I was glad it was from the first ball. Kohli's wicket is always special."