24th May: Mumbai Indians v R. Royals, 14:30 GMT
24th-28th May: 2nd Test, Headingley
By Aaron Kumar
In cricketing circles many hold the view that Shane Warne is the best captain that Australia never had. Warne did indeed lead his country for a handful of ODIs but that was as a stand in and he was never the appointed skipper.
Warne gave a glimpse of what might have been last year, when he led the Rajasthan Royals to victory in the inaugural IPL tournament. At the start of the campaign, the Royals were the least fancied team, mainly due to the fact they appeared on paper at least to have the least amount of star players.
This year's competition has been a struggle for the Royals and while they still have had their moments of glory, they seem unlikely to repeat their accomplishments of last year.
In 2009 the Chennai Super Kings, led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni have been very impressive, and they are currently placed second in the table. The Super Kings made the finals last year and really appear to be playing with skill and intensity that would be required for them to lift the trophy.
Unlike Warne, Dhoni is now a very experienced and successful captain at international level. He had his first taste of international captaincy in the 2007 Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa, when India named a very young squad but surprised everyone by going all the way and winning the inaugural tournament.
In that event Dhoni showed that he was not afraid to experiment and think outside the box, and following India's success in South Africa, Dhoni was appointed India's ODI captain and he led his country to victory in the triangular series with Australia and Sri Lanka, in Australia - the first time that India had ever triumphed in this event.
When Anil Kumble retired from international cricket at the end of 2008, Dhoni inherited the Test captaincy and the wicket-keeper from Jharkland won his first four Tests in charge.
In this year's IPL competition, Dhoni has shown yet again a willingness to be innovative and to be one step ahead of his opposite number, a classic example of this would be when he brought on part-time bowler Sureh Raina to bowl at the death, and Raina responded by picking up a wicket and hardly conceding a run.
It is fair to say that Dhoni does have some exceptional batsmen at his disposal and he also has the leading Test wicket-taker of all time in Muttiah Muralidaren in his ranks, but Dhoni has the ability to lead from the front and galvanise his troops and this quality is what makes him such an inspirational leader, and his side such a difficult one to dislodge.
Earlier in the tournament, the Super Kings had lost their first two out of three matches, and this prompted Dhoni to bring himself up the order; the change worked, Dhoni started to fire, his team gained confidence and they have barely lost a match since then.
Today the Super Kings face the Kolkatta Knight Riders, the Knight Riders are bottom of the table having just won one match all tournament, and it would be easy for Dhoni to experiment in such a fixture knowing that his team are already through to the last four. But such is the hunger of Dhoni and his team, I don’t expect them to alter a winning outfit for this game instead it is yet another opportunity to show the cricketing world that the Super Kings are ready to go all the way. Dhoni could well be on course to add one more line to his already glowing CV.
© Cricket World 2009