Chennai: If there is one cricketer who has been virtually synonymous with an IPL franchise, it is M S Dhoni. After Chennai Super Kings bought him for the highest price of $1.5 million (then worth about Rs 7.5 crore) at the first IPL auction in January 2008, Dhoni has captained the team in all eight editions of the IPL so far - a record unmatched by any other player.
Understandably, there was much speculation about what Dhoni would do after CSK was suspended for two years. Some said he might even sit out of the IPL rather than play for any other franchise. However, it is now learned that Dhoni has decided to join another team
Dhoni will definitely feature in the IPL for a new team. There is absolutely no pressure from CSK to stop him and the next edition of the IPL will see him in action.
- a source.
"He (Dhoni) is the Indian captain in ODIs and T20. How can he not play in an important event like the IPL?" the source said.
The two buyers for the new season haven't yet been identified. But it's certain that Dhoni will be the No. 1 target for both the new franchises owing to his brand value and match-winning abilities in T20 cricket. There is a possibility of six players from the banned teams CSK and Rajasthan Royals being inducted into the new franchises while the rest are likely to go into the auction pool.
If Dhoni is still playing after two years, there could always be the option of CSK buying him back. "We won't say Dhoni's association with CSK is over, but for now, he will play for some other team," the source added. The IPL will be played right after the World T20 in India next year and there is bound to be massive interest around the two new teams that will enter the fray. Dhoni, who has always been identified with the yellow jersey of CSK, will now sport a different colour. That itself will add to the excitement.
Meanwhile, Dhoni, who flew out of Chennai on Friday for the final ODI in Mumbai, met former BCCI president N Srinivasan "in a strictly personal capacity".
"Dhoni's flight to Mumbai was at 1:30pm. He knows us for years and called up Mr Srinivasan and came down to have masala dosa for breakfast," the source added. Apparently CSK was not discussed at the meeting. "It was all very personal. They spoke about Dhoni's daughter, his business, and so many other things. Dhoni has always had a very good relationship with Srinivasan and it's obvious that he will come and meet him if he is in Chennai," the source added.
There has been criticism in some quarters about Dhoni's meeting with Srinivasan, but the India Cements bosses laughed it off. "Those who are criticizing Dhoni for meeting Srinivasan should also know that he is also the vice-president of the company. Isn't it natural that he will meet the managing director of the same company, if he is in the city?" the official said.