IPL 2023 | Yellow fever grips Eden in Dhoni’s ‘swansong’ match
"They are trying to give me a farewell," Dhoni said while keeping his retirement plans a secret. Photo: IPL 2023/Twitter

IPL 2023 | Yellow fever grips Eden in Dhoni’s ‘swansong’ match

In a never seen atmosphere, yellow fever gripped Kolkata’s Eden Gardens in support of talismanic MS Dhoni, who probably made his last appearance at the iconic venue while leading Chennai Super Kings to an emphatic 49-run win over hosts Kolkata Knight Riders in IPL on Sunday (April 23).

KKR franchise had planted their purple flags in every seat of the 67,000-capacity stadium before the match began. But once the spectators packed the stadium before the toss, all purple flags disappeared and it was a sea of yellow in support of Dhoni. “I have played a lot of cricket over here. I had a job at Kharagpur which was two hours from here. The love comes from there,” Dhoni said at the toss, overwhelmed by the response.

Watch | Dhoni hints at retirement | Chennai Super Kings | IPL 2023

At the commentary, Ravi Shastri also endorsed the view: “It’s the sea of yellow in Eden, tribute to one man. He’s the King of East, it’s MS Dhoni.”

There was, however, no official word from CSK that Dhoni was playing his last season for the franchise but the 41-year-old few days back hinted that he is in the last phase of his career. And as Ajinkya Rahane and Shivam Dube were going berserk in their 85-run stand, loud chants of “We want Dhoni” reverberated the Eden Gardens. Some fans even carried playcards where it was written: “Dear Mahi, take my life and play 100 years more.”

Dhoni finally made a grand entry after the dismissal of Rahane with two balls left in CSK’s innings. All the fans greeted him by flashing their mobile phone cameras as he remained unbeaten on two from three balls. The first ball he faced was a no ball from Kulwant Khejroliya. “We want a helicopter shot,” shouted the fans as he gave a big heave but could not connect.

Also read: IPL 2023 | MS Dhoni: It’s the last phase of my career

Dhoni finally got off the mark in the last ball of the match with a thump to long-off.

Not just from the city, fans have arrived in Kolkata all the way from Cooch Behar in North Bengal like Anita Harijan, who had come with her four-year-old daughter. “I boarded the train on Saturday night. I stayed up all night in the general compartment. I finally came to Eden. I want to see Dhoni from the front,” she said.

“It was a dream come true. I’m here to see him. Everyone in my family is Dhoni fan. We are here to support CSK.”

Another fan, Alka Patnaik had come to Eden with six friends from Odisha said: “We just wanted to see Mahi.” Alka, who had CSK written on her cheek, smiled and said, “I came from Odisha to Kolkata to see Dhoni. I want to enjoy the KKR vs Chennai match with my friends. I won’t take my eyes off Mahi for a moment.” Such was the never-seen Dhoni fever that gripped Eden on Sunday.

‘Thanks to Kolkata crowd, they were trying to give me farewell’

Having first stepped on this iconic ground as a teenager, who played Ranji Trophy for Bihar, it was evident that Kolkata’s favourite son-in-law has a manic fan base in the city of joy.

“I will just say thanks for the support, they came in big numbers. Most of these guys will come in a KKR jersey next time. They are trying to give me a farewell, so thanks a lot to the crowd,” Dhoni kept it open-ended even as he took a picture with all groundsmen, one last time.

Also read: IPL 2023 | Under Bravo, youngsters will gain confidence to bowl at death: Dhoni

Dhoni was all praise for his bowlers as they executed the plans well despite boundary being short on one side. “Fast bowlers are doing their job, so are spinners in the middle. The wicket was short on one side so we needed to get early wickets and keep the pressure. They have plenty of power hitters, so we had to give the respect to the opposition.”

CSK is hamstrung by injuries to first team players like Ben Stokes and Deepak Chahar but that’s the least in Dhonis mind. “I have a clear funda. If someone is injured, he can’t do anything. You just move on and motivate the youngsters to perform. We have been fortunate that all the guys coming in are performing,” he said.

Watch | IPL 2023: Dhoni gets ‘Thala 200’ memento ahead of CSK vs RR game (Video)

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