Indian cricket legend MS Dhoni and the city of Chennai share a special bond. Having been the skipper of Team Chennai in the Indian T20 League ever since its inception in 2008, Chennai has become an adopted home for Dhoni. Just one glance at all his achievements and the memorable moments that he’s produced at the MA Chidambaram Stadium makes it easy to understand why he’s loved so dearly by the Chennai faithful.
He has led Team Chennai to four Indian T20 League titles and two Champions League Twenty20 titles besides consistently conjuring magical moments of individual brilliance on the field that left an indelible mark on the fans of the franchise.
Affectionately nicknamed Thala - which means leader in Tamil - what Dhoni truly represents and means to the people of Chennai was evident for all to see recently. With the Covid-19 pandemic depriving Chennai’s fans of Indian T20 League action for 1,426 days, their game against Team Lucknow in the 2023 edition of the tournament was always going to be a special occasion.
And wouldn’t you just know it, despite coming in to bat late in the innings, Dhoni lived up to the billing by smashing express pacer Mark Wood for back-to-back sixes that left the crowd in raptures while 1.7 crore fans watched on from home his three-ball cameo on the league’s streaming service. Incidentally, Team Chennai eventually won the match by 12 runs to register their first win of the season.
His brief stay with the bat at the crease was just another of the innumerable memorable moments that he’s given the Chennai faithful. He’s scored 1,375 runs at this venue for Team Chennai and has smashed 52 sixes in the league on this ground - the most by any player. Dhoni’s also enamoured Chennai’s fans in Indian colours and with that in mind, here’s a closer look at some of his best moments at the Chepauk stadium.
MS Dhoni’s best at the Chepauk Stadium
Winning Team Chennai’s second Indian T20 League crown
After successfully winning the 2010 edition of the Indian T20 League, Dhoni led Team Chennai to back-to-back titles by clinching the 2011 trophy in front of a vociferous home crowd. After electing to bat first, Team Chennai posted 205/5 as Dhoni chipped in with a 13-ball 22 that included two maximums. He then guided Chennai with his prudent captaincy and restricted Team Bangalore to 147/8 and registered a 58-run win in the final.
Player of the Match vs Hyderabad in 2013
Widely regarded as one of the masters of the chase in limited-overs cricket, MS Dhoni showed the world and his home fans exactly what he’s all about against Hyderabad in Indian T20 League 2013. Chasing a target of 160, Dhoni walked to the crease in the 10th over with the score on 76/2 as the game hung in the balance. Captain Cool proceeded to go about his business in trademark fashion by scoring a 37-ball 67 to register a five-wicket win with two balls to spare. Dhoni finished off the match in style by hitting a six and a couple of fours much to the delight of the fans in the stands.
Match-winning knock for Asia XI in 2007
While representing Asia XI against Africa XI in the 2007 Afro-Asia Cup, Dhoni blew away the opposition and mesmerised the crowd with his hard-hitting belligerence. He smashed a 97-ball 139 that included 15 fours and five sixes. His knock helped Asia XI post 331/8 on the scoreboard and he was also involved in three stumpings in the second innings. His effort helped register a 13-run win for Asia XI and earned him the Player of the Match award.
A fighting 113 not out against Pakistan
Up against arch-rivals Pakistan in a 2012 ODI encounter, India was reeling after being asked to first. Dhoni walked into the middle in just the 10th over with the score reading 29/5. His trademark grit and determination led to India’s recovery as he batted till the end of the innings for the Men in Blue, scoring 113 not out from 125 balls to help his team post 227/6. Dhoni walked off the field after his knock as Chennai’s fans serenaded him with chants and applause for his effort. Unfortunately for him and India, Pakistan still won the game by six wickets.
Only double ton in Test cricket
Going by his love and bond with Chennai - his second home - it was perhaps fitting that his only double century in Tests came at Chepauk. After being asked to bowl first, Australia went on to post a formidable 380 in the first innings of the first Test of the four-match series. However, little did they know then that Dhoni would go on the produce his best Test knock for India to turn the tide of the contest in India’s favour. He scored 224 off 265 balls as the fans in Chennai made their voices heard and India posted 572. Dhoni’s team then dismissed the Aussies for just 241 in their second innings before chasing down a 50-run target with 10 wickets in hand. Needless to say, Dhoni was deservedly adjudged the Player of the Match for his superb inning.
Photo Credit: Alamy