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MS Dhoni.

CHENNAI: MS Dhoni’s absence from competitive cricket since India’s 2019 World Cup semifinal loss – against New Zealand in Manchester on July 9 – has been the subject of intense speculation in recent months.

While there is no clarity on Dhoni’s future with the Indian team, what is certain is that he will be seen in Chennai Super Kings (CSK) colours very soon considering the IPL is starting on March 29. And before that, he will provide a teaser of what to expect when he sets foot in Chennai on March 1 and starts training at Chepauk.

“He is expected to arrive on March 1. He will probably train for a couple of weeks before going back for 4-5 days and then coming back once again closer to the start of the IPL,” sources close to the development told TOI.

When Dhoni arrives in the city in search of a fourth title for CSK, it will be one of the earliest he has ever arrived in preparation for the IPL. In years gone by, he has invariably been busy with India duty and joined the CSK boys just prior to the beginning of the tournament. This time around, he can perhaps familiarise himself with some of the newer players and indulge in a few more off-field activities.

Having been away from the game for more than six months and begun training with the Jharkhand team only recently, it will also be interesting to see what kind of form he is in with the bat. At 38, his reflexes while batting in particular have slowed down just a touch, but the break from the game might have just helped him refresh his batteries and play with more freedom.

Dhoni will be accompanied in training by the likes of Suresh Raina and Ambati Rayudu in the first week of March. “Raina and Rayudu had been training here for the last three weeks. They are going back and then joining again on March 2. Players who are available at that time will also join. The official camp starts from March 10,” sources said.

CSK have attracted crowds of 10,000 and more for their practice sessions at Chepauk over the last couple of years. With Dhoni in the final stretch of his career and having barely appeared in public recently, it will be no surprise if there is similar mayhem as fans try to catch a glimpse of him whenever they can.

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