MS Dhoni: The man who could solve every puzzle except Mumbai Indians
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is undoubtedly one of the greatest players to have ever played the game of cricket. He has probably got the sharpest cricketing brain in the current breed of players; his understanding of the game is visible every time he is on the ground.
We have all seen his anticipation and quick thinking in numerous stumpings, catches, run-outs, etc. that he has performed or assisted over the years. He has such commitment to the game that while batting, he even stops the bowler and points out an incorrect fielding placement by the opponents.
So it's pretty obvious that a team having Dhoni on their side will have an advantage over the opponents even before the game starts. And this has been proved time and again.
Dhoni is the only Indian captain to win all three major ICC trophies. He brought glory to the Indian cricket team by winning the first ever ICCs T20 World Cup (in 2007), the limited overs World Cup in 2011 and then finally the Champions League in 2013.
We all probably witnessed the power and far-sightedness of Dhoni's cricketing brain for the first time in that last over of the 2007 T20 World Cup. It was probably the most important over in his cricketing career, but instead of relying on the more experienced and established bowlers of his team, he asked the relatively unknown Joginder Sharma to bowl against the set and firing Misbah-ul-Haq. We all know how things unfolded after that.
Even in Test cricket, the longest and truest format of the game, the Indian team became the world's No. 1 side during his captaincy. Dhoni captained India in more Tests than any other player (60), and led the team to victory in most Tests.
The charismatic leadership of Dhoni is also visible in the Indian Premier League, the money-spinning, adrenaline-pumping T20 league organized by BCCI which has been played ever since 2008.
Across the 12 editions of IPL played until 2019, the Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings have featured in the final in 8 out of the 10 seasons in which they have participated. Chennai have won three of those eight finals. As a matter of fact, no other team has featured in IPL finals more than Chennai Super Kings.
The only two finals that they missed out were 2009 and 2014. In both of those seasons, CSK played and lost in the semifinals. Also, it's worth nothing that that the 2009 IPL was played outside India for the first and probably the last time.
(The Chennai franchise was banned from the IPL for two years - 2016 and 2017 - due to betting allegations. That's a different story, for another day.)
Impressive, right? No other team has dominated the IPL like CSK. In the group stages, CSK have never finished out of the top 4. If anything is constant in the IPL knockout phase, it's CSK. They are the only team in the IPL that have always qualified for the knockout rounds in all the seasons that they have played.
Looking at the head-to-head record of CSK against the other teams of the IPL, the stats look even more impressive than their 10 straight top 4 finishes.
Their dominance and consistency can be measured by the fact that even after being sidelined for two years and having been forced to rebuild the team from scratch in 2018, CSK ended the season as champions.
But in the midst of such a dominant display of consistency, power and command, the "unbeatable" and "dominant" force of CSK takes a bit of a beating at the hands of one other team - the Mumbai Indians.
Let's look at a few interesting records from CSK vs MI encounters:
1. By the end of the 2019 season, CSK and MI have played 28 matches against each other and out of those, four have been IPL finals. That's an astonishing 14.28% of all their matches.
2. Out of those 28 matches, 17 of them have been won by Mumbai, i.e. a dominating 60.71% of all their matches.
3. Even in IPL finals, Mumbai have dominated Chennai by winning 3 out of 4, i.e. 75% of times.
4. In the 2019 season, CSK and MI met 4 times and MI won all 4, a complete whitewash.
5. In their last 9 meetings, CSK have only won once, in 2018, by 1 wicket. The rest 8 matches have been won by MI.
6. Interestingly, CSK have won a at least 57% of their games against all other IPL opponents.
7. Of the 5 IPL final losses that Chennai have had to suffer, 3 have come against Mumbai Indians.
8. All the 4 IPL trophies that Mumbai have won have come while playing against MS Dhoni.
9. 3 of Mumbai's IPL final victories have come against CSK, and one victory was sealed against Rising Pune Supergiant in the 2017 season. Dhoni played for the now-defunct Pune franchise as a wicketkeeper when CSK was barred for 2 years from the IPL.
10. One more interesting fact is that MI won the IPL final in 2017 against RPS by the same margin that they won the IPL final in 2019 against CSK, i.e. by 1 run. Good luck or deja vu?
As with all champions and great leaders, even Dhoni is not without an insurmountable challenge - and that challenge is in the form of Mumbai Indians in the IPL. Even though he is a complete champion in every sense of the word, he still can't win against everyone all the time.
A quick look at the recently concluded 2019 season and the outcome of all matches played between Chennai and Mumbai reveals the following:
1. First Round Robin match played in Mumbai - Mumbai Indians won by 37 runs
2. Second Round Robin match played in Chennai - Mumbai Indians won by 46 runs
3. First Qualifier played in Chennai - Mumbai won by 6 wickets
4. 2019 IPL finals - Mumbai won by 1 run
Let's hope that the 2020 season will continue to pose the challenge to Dhoni and CSK so that we as fans of IPL can enjoy some nail-biting finishes and intriguing battles of wits.