The 10th edition of the Indian Premier League saw its first finalist on Tuesday, as Rising Pune Supergiant beat Mumbai Indians by 20 runs in Qualifier 1 to enter their first final. And leading the show was none other than former Chennai Super Kings skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
It might have been Pune’s first game in the playoffs on Tuesday, but the occasion is not new for Dhoni. He has played in the final of the cash-rich league a record six times and this will be his seventh appearance, the previous six coming for CSK. Even as Dhoni swung hard, it wasn’t the Pune fans alone who were egging him on. It was a bitter sweet moment for CSK fans as well. After all, they were cheering for their 'Thala' Dhoni. But, they were also sad that he wasn't in their favourite yellow jersey.
Saravanan also rued the fact that MSD is not leading Pune this season, but that didn’t stop him from cheering his favourite player. "It is unfortunate that he is not the skipper, but still he has played a key role in Pune's progress to the final. Yesterday Dhoni played well to reach the final. I want Dhoni to reach the final for every team that he plays. Seeing him happy makes me happy,” he said.
“The same Harsh Goenka who described the appointment of Steve Smith as a captain of the RPS as a great move stood up and applauded Dhoni for his performance in Qualifier 1. That is how a champion replies to criticism,” Srijesh Murali, happy with his star's performance on the field, said.
Another fan, R.U Vignesh, who claims to be a die-hard Dhoni and CSK fan summed up the mood of the cricket crazy city saying: "As a CSK fan it’s disappointing to see MS Dhoni in some other team, but it feels nice to see him reach another final." Coming in to bat in the 13th over, MSD smashed a quick-fire 40 off just 26 balls to help his team pose a winning total. Going into the 19th over, Pune’s score read 121/3, but Dhoni smashed four of his five sixes in the last two overs — bowled by death over specialists Mitchell McClenaghan and Jasprit Bumrah — as the Pune finished on a match-winning score of 162.
It's clear who Chennai will be rooting for in the IPL final, but only till Chennai Super Kings return to the league after serving their suspension.