The chariot is riding and riding well. The horse is fed, the coachman is motivated and everything looks princely again. The royalty that is the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) looks like the team that we have known for so many years- making the most of what the have and preferring effectiveness and substance over style and flash.
Some might say though that with Mahendra Singh Dhoni at the helm, their performances should not come as a surprise. Yet, it is Dhoni, on whom, the spotlight has remained right throughout this campaign.
Regardless of the day of the week or the venue, fans have flocked every CSK game, cladded in yellow going bonkers at every move of their talisman.
If Dhoni has managed to ensure CSK remain consistent this season, it is because the support staff with him have managed a transition in the last few years. The likes of Suresh Raina, Shane Watson and Dwayne Bravo have all moved on and the newer players who have come in have settled in well.
Yet, the most important part of the transition lies ahead for the franchise. CSK showed they are ready to look ahead from Dhoni when they broke the bank for Ben Stokes in the auction in December, but circumstances have meant that they have not had a chance to get a better look at that transition.
This has meant CSK have needed Dhoni more than he has needed them. By his own admission, he is in the ‘last phase of his career’, has been reportedly carrying an injury and has demoted himself to as low as possible in the batting order.
The question then arises: Are CSK willing to bell the Dhoni cat regardless of what happens this season? As things stand now, the answer is no.
But what do they do if Dhoni says he has had enough, before IPL 2024? Who is their backup captain? Can they throw Stokes into the furnace next year, with him having no idea of how this squad works?
Call it coincidence or the stars aligning, but Qualifier 1 and Eliminator both are in Chennai and CSK look good to play either of those matches. It means that like Dhoni had said at an event, his last match for CSK could be at Chepauk.
He might want to end it that way, but are CSK ready to end it that way?