'If he loses 20kg, I will pick him for CSK': MS Dhoni's straightforward precondition for Afghanistan star in 2018
Former Afghanistan captain Asghar Afghan revealed his chat with Dhoni from the 2018 Asia Cup, where the latter put an unusual precondition for an Afghan batter.
MS Dhoni, the captain of the Chennai Super Kings (CSK), has remained a guiding figure for young players in the Indian Premier League (IPL). His wealth of experience, marked by five IPL titles, makes him one of the most sought-after seniors in the league. Following matches against CSK, it is a common sight to witness young talents from opposing teams engaging in conversations with Dhoni. And why not? Despite retiring from international cricket over three years ago, Dhoni's leadership legacy remains unparalleled as he stands as the last Indian captain to clinch an ICC trophy, achieving the feat in the 2013 Champions Trophy held in England.
The aura of MS Dhoni extends beyond boundaries, exemplified by a recent revelation from former Afghanistan captain Asghar Afghan. Recalling an incident during the 2018 Asia Cup, Afghan shared an anecdote about wicketkeeper-batter Mohammad Shahzad expressing his desire to play for CSK. In response, Dhoni, known for his wit, delivered a tongue-in-cheek remark.
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"After the tied match, I had a long chat with MS Dhoni. He is a superb captain and a god's gift to Indian cricket. He is a nice human being. We spoke about Mohammad Shahzad a lot. I told Dhoni bhai that Shahzad is your big fan. Dhoni said 'Shahzad has got a big tummy and if he loses 20 kg, I will pick him in the IPL'. But when Shahzad returned to Afghanistan after the series, he gained 5 more kgs (laughs)," Afghan told The Times of India.
It was in the same tournament that Dhoni made a surprise return to Indian captaincy for the match against Afghanistan. While Virat Kohli, then-Indian skipper, rested throughout the Asia Cup, interim skipper Rohit Sharma had also opted out of the clash as India had already qualified for the next round. Interestingly, the match between the two sides had ended in a tie.
"The tied match of the 2018 Asia Cup was the best moment for me. That was the best match. Both Afghanistan and Indian fans were in tension. India needed seven runs to win in the last over and Afghanistan needed one wicket to win the match. Rashid bowled the last over.
“When three deliveries were remaining, Jadeja was on strike. Nabi and Rashid came and said, 'Captain. bring all the players inside the circle or close to Jadeja'. India needed 1 off two balls. I decided to place Najib (Najibullah Zadran) towards mid-on. I told Rashid to bowl leg break and Jadeja was out caught to Najib towards mid-wicket. Rashid was so happy, he hugged me. I knew Jadeja would make some room and (try to) smash the ball and would end up giving the catch. And he did the same. I will give credit to Rashid who bowled well and as per the plan,” Afghan further recalled.
Dhoni's presence in the Indian team then, as well as in the IPL now, serves as a testament to his enduring influence and the respect he commands from players across different teams. And the 42-year-old star wicketkeeper-batter is set to return for another IPL season next year, as he was one of the players retained by the Super Kings ahead of the 2024 auction.
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