It was a remarkable turnaround for Dhoni and CSK, who failed to reach the playoffs in IPL 2020, finishing seventh.
Following CSK's disastrous campaign last year, many wrote MS Dhoni off and felt it was time to call it quits for the veteran wicketkeeper-batter. Even during IPL 2021, Dhoni struggled with the bat, leading to questions on whether this would be his last year as a player.
However, Dhoni showed he still got it when he hit 18 off six balls in Qualifier 1 against Delhi Capitals (DC) to seal CSK's spot in the final.
Dhoni retired from international cricket last year and ahead of the mega auction for IPL 2022, there is severe speculation on whether he will retire from franchise cricket as well.
Asked about his plans for next season at the post-match presentation ceremony following the IPL 2021 final, Dhoni said:
"Again I've said it before, it depends on BCCI. With two new teams coming in......we have to decide what is good for CSK. It's not about me being there in top-three or four. It's about making a strong core to ensure the franchise doesn't suffer. The core group, we have to have a hard look to see who can contribute for the next 10 years."
As presenter Harsha Bhogle saluted the "legacy he has left behind," Dhoni was quick to point out with a laugh that "I haven't left it behind yet."
More on his future will be clear once the retention rules ahead of the mega auction are made clear.
On that note, we discuss three reasons why MS Dhoni should call it quits before the next IPL season.
#3 Poor form with bat
MS Dhoni is still a brilliant captain and has a safe pair of hands behind the stumps, but his batting form has taken a dip.
Dhoni has struggled against spin and high pace over the last two seasons, and is far from really making an impact with the bat, barring a few matches.
His average in IPL 2021 was 16.28 while his strike rate read 106.54.
While he has mostly not been needed with the bat, he has struggled to get going on most occasions when called upon.
Dhoni has time and again stood up with the bat and played some match-winning knocks, but his ability seems to be waning.
#2 CSK need to groom a replacement
MS Dhoni is 40 and, in all likelihood, has just one more year of cricket left in him even if he does decide to play in IPL 2021.
However, with the mega auction lined up ahead of IPL 2022, CSK have a chance to get a long-term replacement for the veteran skipper.
CSK will likely see a significant rebuild and Dhoni has made it clear that the team's vision is long-term.
Dhoni has held down the wicketkeeper spot in CSK since the IPL began in 2008, and the mega-auction is the best bet for them to find someone of a high caliber to take over the mantle.
In Ravindra Jadeja, CSK already have another player who can step up as a finisher, but they will need to replace Dhoni behind the stumps and this might be an opportune moment for them to do so.
#1 Leaving on a high
There can never be any questions about MS Dhoni's legacy regardless of when he chooses to retire. With four IPL titles under his belt, Dhoni has been one of the most successful skippers in the league.
CSK's biggest strength is consistency as they have maintained a strong core and built around that, relying on a mix of experience and youth to get the job done.
After last year's debacle, CSK came back strong this year and have won the league in a fairytale finish, and Dhoni may consider leaving on a high note as he deserves to do.
Now we move on to three reasons why MS Dhoni should continue playing in the IPL.
#3 Dhoni is still "Captain Cool"
All said and done, MS Dhoni is still a brilliant captain who has shown time and again that he can keep a team together and create the kind of environment that breeds success.
His on-field decisions have also been spot on, like bringing on CSK's fastest bowler in Josh Hazlewood the moment KKR sent Sunil Narine up the order in the final. The move paid immediate dividends, with Narine getting dismissed in that very over.
Several players have spoken about how much they love and enjoy playing under Dhoni's captaincy. His leadership skills and charisma are reasons enough for CSK to try and keep him around for as long as possible.
#2 Age is just a number for Dhoni
MS Dhoni may be 40, but his reflexes behind the stumps are still lightning-quick. He also has a safe pair of hands.
Dhoni showed in Qualifier 1 against Delhi Capitals that he can still deliver with the bat in crunch situations, even when not in the best of form.
Dhoni brings so much to the table as a captain that it will be difficult for CSK to replace his experience. Even when it comes to DRS calls, Dhoni's decisions are still sharp and his reading of the game is second to none.
The CSK team showed this year that age is something that can be overcome, and it would be unwise to write off Dhoni just because he has gotten older.
#1 A fitting farewell at home
For the majority of the last two seasons of the IPL, games have been played behind closed doors. Even though fans were allowed inside the stadiums for the second half of IPL 2021, the tournament was being held in the UAE.
If Dhoni does have to bid farewell to CSK, a team he has been leading since the inception of the league (barring the two seasons CSK were banned), he should play another year in front of the home fans at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.
Dhoni himself would want to play at least one more time at his CSK den and the fans would be heartbroken if he didn't get that opportunity before retiring from all forms of cricket.