IPL 2023: MS Dhoni leading CSK by example despite a problematic knee is commendable, says Anjum Chopra

Gujarat Titans, Chennai Super Kings, Lucknow Super Giants and Mumbai Indians trumped the other six teams to finally book the playoffs berth but this tournament was lit up by the dazzling efforts of several players.

In an exclusive chat with myKhel, former India cricketer and senior commentator Anjum Chopra spoke at length about the ongoing IPL 2023. The 46-year-old cricketer-turned-commentator lauded young guns Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Rinku Singh for leaving a lasting memory with their imperious effort in his season.

The former India captain also shared her opinion on the method behind the madness of the enigma called Suryakumar Yadav, what makes Gujarat Titans such a strong team, her assessment of the ‘impact-sub’ rule and the phenomena of MS Dhoni. Here are the excerpts:

Q: Gujarat Titans once again qualified for the IPL 2023 Playoffs as the top-ranked side. What separates this team from the others?

Ans: Consistency and balance is the reason why Gujarat Titans have done so well in the second season in a row. When this team started last year it was a blank canvas. It was totally up to them, what kind of story they are going to write.

This year, it was expected of them to play like a champion team. The key players from the last season like Rashid Khan, Mohammed Shami, Shubman Gill, etc. have all done well and the youngsters also rose to the occasions when the team needed them.

Shami has been consistent and we expect such a performance from a player like him. Rashid is contributing to all three departments. Noor Ahmad and Mohit Sharma joined the team this year and made an immediate impact.

Gujarat Titans’ outlook has been that Indian batters will score runs and foreign bowlers will pick up more wickets, and that outlook has worked well for them. Be it the leadership group, the coaching staff, or the approach of the captain and players, there has been consistency and hence the result.

Q: Which youngster grabbed your attention this season in IPL 2023?

Ans: On a big stage like IPL, every talented youngster needs to go through the grind only then do they get polished and are able to take their game to the next level. Be it Rinku Singh, Yashasvi Jaiswal or Shubman Gill, they’ve all been in the tournament for quite a few seasons and took their game gradually to the next level.

Yashasvi Jaiswal has been very impressive this season. The way he was striking the ball and the consistency he showed were heartening. With Shubman Gill we have seen him do well at the international level, he’s just keeping that good form going.

Rinku Singh has had a landmark season but he’s also been doing well in the domestic circuit. Mayank Markande has done well for Punjab Kings. He’s come back strongly after a couple of sub-par performances at the start.

It’s been also nice to see even senior players like Mohit Sharma, and Piyush Chawla do so well in their comeback season. With senior players like Shami and Bhuvneshwar, you expect them to take wickets but it’s the impactful performances such players make, which stand out for me.

Q: Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill have been so good this season. Is it because of the better mental space these two are in?

Ans: Both these batters were talented when they burst into the scene with their performances in U-19 cricket. But the subtle nuances of the game one can only learn with time and that seeped into their batting as they matured. You need to give time to young batters the to score runs consistently and learn from the mistakes they are committing and reduce the frequency of errors they were committing in the early years of their cricketing careers.

It has been the case with Yashasvi and Shubman both, they’ve both looked better players with every passing season. So, that mental strength to cope with the challenges of international cricket come after a certain time. That’s why we readily use the statement ‘he/she is ready for international cricket’.

Q: What is your overall assessment of the impact players rule in this edition? Has this been a reason for teams scoring so many totals in excess of 200 runs?

Ans: I think an effort was made by the stakeholders to introduce something innovative in the game. Yes, the runs are being scored but at the same time, too many wickets have also fallen because batters have tried to go after the bowlers more often and perished. So, I think this experimentation with new rules has been really nice.

Q: What is your opinion on SKY the Maverick? Why is he such a force to reckon with in the T20s?

Ans: It is his skill that sets him apart from the rest. The six-over square-leg boundary that he plays isn’t a freak shot because there goes a lot of preparation to master such shots. SKY spends a lot of time in the nets working and excelling at such shots.

He makes look that shot ridiculously easier because he’s worked hard on that. He loves playing such shots and it’s just the way a person plays certain shots, it’s an effective style for him and helps that player and the team.

Q: MS Dhoni is playing with a problematic knee in this tournament. Is he setting a precedent that players can keep playing with some injury? How do you look at it?

Ans: MS Dhoni revealed his injury and it could be seen as an exception, that is him being modest, plus he has nothing left to prove to anyone. But there are several players who play despite not being completely fit. Let me tell you, every player carries some injury or the other when he or she is playing.

There isn’t a single athlete who is competing at the highest level, who is not having a slight niggle, an injured finger or something else because it is part and parcel of the game. The human body keeps going through wear and tear even when you are doing a desk job, and we are talking about athletes.

So, the precedence that Dhoni has set is that a person who’s over 40, is playing the sport with the same intensity (that we used to see him compete). It is a commendable job that he’s doing and still happens to be on top of his game. He’s still running well between the stumps, his catching behind the wickets is exceptional and he’s still hitting those long and towering sixes. He’s led CSK well this season, again. So, what matters here is match fitness and Dhoni has maintained that.

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