The IPL is set to experience a major change as former India skipper MS Dhoni is expected to announce his retirement at the end of the 2023 season. Although Dhoni has not officially informed Chennai Super Kings (CSK), it is understood that he will play his last IPL match in front of the home crowd at Chepauk Stadium. The CSK management anticipates an official announcement from Dhoni prior to the start of the IPL. This year, the IPL returns to its traditional home and away format after a three-year absence.

An official from CSK stated, “We believe this will be his last season as he wants to bid farewell at his favorite stadium. In any case, we should have clarity by the start of the IPL.” There has been much speculation about Dhoni’s future in recent times, which intensified when he handed over the CSK captaincy to Ravindra Jadeja in 2022, only to take it back when Jadeja’s performance was not up to par. With experienced leaders Ben Stokes and Ajinkya Rahane in the mix, Dhoni can finally put an end to his playing career.

The official further added, “MS has not informed us of his decision and there is no pressure on him to do so. He is our leader and will do what is best for the team. As far as the management is concerned, MS has our full support whether he continues beyond this season.”

This raises the question of succession for CSK. The team has three options – Ben Stokes, Ajinkya Rahane, and the young Ruturaj Gaikwad. Although Stokes is the favorite, his conditional NOC could pose a challenge. With his national team commitments, it is unlikely that Stokes will be available for the full duration of the IPL every season. Hence, CSK may look towards an Indian option that Stokes and Dhoni can groom for the future. Gaikwad, who has already led Maharashtra in domestic cricket, is an excellent candidate for the future.

With regards to Stokes, CSK faces two problems. One, he is a foreign player and two, he is an all-rounder. Stokes is likely to be granted a conditional NOC for not bowling in every match. This means that CSK will have to play him as an overseas batter in some games. His past injury history may also force CSK to consider another player. While Rahane is another option, he does not have a guaranteed spot in the CSK playing XI and he is not as young as Gaikwad.

An official from CSK commented, “Of course, we are very happy to have Ben Stokes. He is not only a match-winner but also a great leader. It is MS’s call on who he will name as his successor. With foreign players leading in the IPL, there is always the problem of combination. All-rounders can also be tricky to handle. If Ben does not get an NOC next year, it will be a problem. So, one can never rule out the young Ruturaj.”

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