IPL 2023: 'He knows his limitations' - Fleming comments on MS Dhoni after CSK's loss
The sight of MS Dhoni pushing along in pain, battling with a knee injury during the IPL 2023 opening game versus Gujarat Titans (GT), may have caused a sense of worry amongst the fans, but Chennai Super Kings (CSK) head coach Stephen Fleming said there is no need for major concerns.
Dhoni, who had worn a kneecap on his right leg at practice in the build-up to the match, was seen in excruciating pain after he bumped onto the turf following one of his dives behind the stumps. That raised doubts whether the 40-year-old ageing skipper is being unpragmatic for once with his body.
But coach Fleming, the former New Zealand captain, said the legendary wicketkeeper-batter is aware of his limitations at this stage of his playing career and was always due to play the Titans game since the injury wasn't overly concerning.
Fleming, in fact, played down the story doing the rounds on MS Dhoni's availability for the tournament opener, which was a follow-up on the sight of him wearing a kneecap to ensure his legs were warmed up at practice sessions and there was no further harm caused to his right leg.
Stephen Fleming on MS Dhoni's knee injury
"He was always playing. Not sure where that story came from. He was nursing a sore knee throughout the month of pre-season, but today it was just cramps, it wasn’t the knee," said Fleming at the post-match press conference following his team's loss versus the defending champions.
The coach also made a larger comment on MS Dhoni's fitness and him seemingly extracting every last possible cricketing action out of his body for CSK. Retired from international cricket back in August 2020, Dhoni has been a declining powerhitter down the order and often bats No.8 these days in a line-up that has come to be independent of his primary skill.
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In the fixture against the Titans, he got into the inexperienced Joshua Little and smashed him for a six and a four in a cameo of 14* off 7. But such cameos have been rarity, not the norm, with the right-hander, whose strike rate for the past three editions of the IPL stood at 116.91 over 44 innings.
Fleming, however, believes Dhoni being an undoubtedly "great leader" still has a lot to offer to CSK.
"He’s not going to be as quick and nimble as he was 15 years ago, but he is still a great leader of the side and, even with the bat, he is still going to play a part."
"He knows his limitations and he is a valuable player to have on the field. He is a legend, isn’t he?" the longstanding coach said.