Chennai Super Kings' skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Saturday reiterated that he will play his last T20 game in Chennai but said he does not know "whether it is next year or in five years' time".
Dhoni, who led CSK to their fourth Indian Premier League (IPL) title last month in the UAE, had earlier made it clear that he would be wearing his favourite yellow jersey for at least one more season and the fans would certainly see him playing a "farewell game" at their beloved Chepauk.
"I have always planned my cricket. The last game I played was in Ranchi. The last home game in ODI was at my hometown in Ranchi. So, hopefully, my last T20 will be in Chennai. Whether it's next year or in 5 years' time, we don't really know," Dhoni said during CSK's IPL victory celebration in Chennai on Saturday.
Speaking in the presence of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin, India Cements vice-chairman and managing director N Srinivasan, legendary all-rounder Kapil Dev, BCCI secretary Jay Shah and IPL chairman Brijesh Patel, Dhoni said CSK's fan following, even during the two years when they missed the league, had kept the team going.
"Overall, it is the fan following which CSK has got, it goes much beyond Tamil Nadu, it goes beyond the borders of India. Wherever we play -- be it in Bengaluru, Johannesburg or Dubai, we have got the support. Even during the lean patch, we missed two years of IPL and that was the period CSK was most talked about on social media," he added.
Dhoni stressed on believing in the process and said it helped in coming back strongly in IPL 2021, after a nightmarish run in 2020, when the team did not qualify for the play-offs for the first time.
"We had a very good run from 2008 when it came to franchisee cricket. But it became interesting in 2020, that was the first season when we did not qualify for the next stage of the IPL.
"It gave us a chance to test the real character of the franchise. It gave us an opportunity to earn the respect of the players and the fans. Because we said we believed in the process not in the result and the result didn't go in our favour in 2020.
"We earned the respect of the men, that's what they said. This is what they do, they walk the talk... We came back very strongly and we were able to win the title this year," the iconic skipper added.
He thanked fellow cricketers and BCCI's administrators for their efforts.
"It is a great stage where I can thank all ex-cricketers seated here, fellow cricketers and also the BCCI administrators for their contribution towards cricket.
"Cricket has changed over the years, format has changed, but due to them, we are standing here and cricket moved forward," Dhoni, who made his Test debut in Chennai, said.
"One of the most memorable associations with Chennai is my Test debut. I never knew I will be picked by CSK. I was in the auction and got picked and it gave me an opportunity to understand the culture of Chennai.
"I believe Chennai taught me a lot, Tamil Nadu taught a lot on how to conduct myself, how to appreciate the game. Each and every game we played in Chennai, the fans came and supported us.
"I think Sachin (Tendulkar) paaji got the biggest ovation whenever he walked out, even when he played for Mumbai Indians," he said of his association with the southern metropolis.
Shah said how can anyone take CSK lightly when they have a captain like Dhoni.
"He is the heartbeat and backbone of CSK. Mahi is the most successful captain India has ever produced. The bond he has made and the legacy he has created will stay for ages," Shah said.
He also said the IPL next year will be played in India.
"I know you are all eagerly waiting to watch Chennai Super Kings play at Chepauk. That moment is not very far, the 15th edition of the IPL will take place in India and it will be more exciting with new teams joining.
"We have a mega auction coming up, let us see what the new combinations look like," Shah added.
Srinivasan said Dhoni has managed admirably the superstars and international captains at CSK and got the best out of the players.
"So many international captains have played under him. It is universally acknowledged that any player will give better than the best under Dhoni. The problem for the management of CSK is how to get this whole gang back," the India Cements MD said.
CM Stalin, speaking in Tamil, too lavished praise on Dhoni and said he was a great fan of the CSK captain.
"I have come here as a fan of Dhoni. My family, my grandchildren (who are here) are fans of his. My father (former Chief Minister Karunanidhi) was a great admirer of Dhoni too," Stalin said.
Dev and Patel praised CSK for their performance in winning the IPL this year.
"Wish we had an administrator like N Srinivasan when we were playing. You are the first administrator who started looking after cricketers," Dev said.