There is perhaps no cricket who is loved more than MS Dhoni in Tamil Nadu. Dhoni’s journey with the city of Chennai and Tamil Nadu began in 2008 when he was named the captain of Chennai Super Kings. Fast forward to 2019 and Dhoni has become one of Tamil Nadu’s most adored if not the most adored players. Even the scandal that saw the franchise getting a two-year suspension has not affected Dhoni’s popularity in that part of the country.

For the Tamil Nadu mass, Dhoni remains their beloved Thala which means ‘leader’. And Dhoni rarely disappoints them with his leadership skills. On Wednesday, the 37-year old returned to Chennai Super Kings’ playing eleven for the match against Delhi Capitals and made his mark straightaway. He impressed with both bat and gloves as Super Kings thrashed Delhi by 80 runs while defending 179.

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Dhoni walked in to bat when the Super Kings were reeling at 87 for 2 in the 14th over. The veteran batsman  then slammed an unbeaten knock of 44 off just 22 balls to help Super Kings finish on a daunting 179 for 4. The wicketkeeper-batsman turned on the heat in the last two overs, helping his side collect as many as 39 runs including 21 from the last over bowled by Trent Boult.

The score turned out to be more than enough in the end as Delhi Capitals were all out for just 99. Dhoni had impressed with the wicketkeeping gloves too, stumping Chris Morris and Shreyas Iyer inside an over to end Delhi’s hopes. With the win, Super Kings took their tally to 9 wins from 13 games and sealed their place in the top two. Speaking at the end of the game, Dhoni opened up about his nickname.

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The Super Kings star said he loves the nickname as he called it a special one.

“I have always said it’s very special to get that kind of a nickname. It’s a big nickname that they have given me. It feels really special. I didn’t realise that it was part of the first CSK song. The way I got accepted and the whole of Tamil Nadu — don’t call my name, they call me ‘Thala’. It’s very nice and they have always supported not only me but the whole team,” said MS Dhoni.