The captaincy of Chennai Super Kings has undergone a change of command a little too frequently and dare we say, a bit too quickly. Just before the start of the IPL 2022, MS Dhoni handed over the captaincy to Ravindra Jadeja. The former India skipper had said then that Jadeja was kept in the loop regarding this transition from last year onward. However, when CSK found itself at the edge of getting knocked out of the tournament, Jadeja decided to step away from his maiden full-time captaincy, halfway through the season.
Of the eight matches under India all-rounder Jadeja’s captaincy, CSK won two while losing the other six. To a layperson, it might appear like all it took was just eight matches for Jadeja to relinquish CSK’s captaincy. But performing under pressure with the additional responsibility of captaincy, is a different ballgame, something few are cut out for.
So where did things go wrong for Jadeja, the captain? Former Australia spinner Brad Hogg had remarked that Dhoni dropping Jadeja in the deep end of the pool, especially during situations that required clear-cut decision making, frazzled the Saurashtra cricketer who just couldn’t help his bowlers out or set the right field.
Ever since taking up the baton, the 33-year-old was unable to get his mind and body to work in tandem. Jadeja had Dhoni – stationed behind the stumps – for assistance in the initial few games, which the latter referred to as the transition period. But thereafter, Jadeja looked lost on the field. While one did not expect him to possess the peak tactical acumen as that of the ‘master of the craft’ Dhoni, Jadeja failed to seize the crucial moments that cost the team dearly. Millions of ardent CSK supporters pinned their hopes on Jadeja, who, with a win percentage of just 25, did not live up to the billing.
Crumbling under the captaincy’s pressure, Jadeja did not display the traits of the three-dimensional cricketer he has been for over a decade now. Neither did he chip in with invaluable runs in the ‘death overs’ nor did he stem the run flow in the middle overs with his left-arm orthodox bowling. One of the best fielders around with a safe pair of hands, Jadeja did the unthinkable – dropping a couple of sitters. In the post-match presentation following Chennai’s victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad, Dhoni stated that Jadeja’s mind was affected by the burden of leadership.
A contrarian but interesting perspective was offered by former India pacer RP Singh who felt that CSK should have retained Jadeja as the captain for this one season. Dropping Jadeja mid-season would have crushed his hopes of ever becoming a skipper again. Although CSK fans rejoiced upon Dhoni’s return as captain, experts questioned the strategy employed by CSK in its captaincy appointments, considering Dhoni is in the twilight of his career.
Tasked with leading the team in the second half of IPL 2022, Dhoni, along with the management, will next have the onerous task of finding his long-term successor. Having expressed the desire to play his final ‘home’ match in front of the ‘Yellow Brigade’ at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, the 40-year-old is likely to be around for one more year. Having said that, CSK will have to prepare for innings after Dhoni. Following the failed Jadeja experiment, CSK would hope to get its next big decision spot on as the franchise undergoes the much talked about transition. As for who would be at the helm when Dhoni walks away from the scene, we’ll need to wait and watch.