Chennai Super Kings, a franchise owned by N. Srinivasan’s India Cements, set the ball rolling by giving a $1.5 million start to the inaugural Indian Premier League auction in Bengaluru in 2008.
The cement major from South India made the highest bid for Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India’s then new poster boy and captain of the ODI team and the ICC Twenty20 World Cup-winning Indian squad.
Speaking at Sportstar’s first-ever South Sports Conclave, Srinivasan revealed how CSK signed Dhoni. “At the IPL auctions, I missed the first two picks. I had asked V.B. Chandrasekhar – former Test cricketer from Tamil Nadu and aggressive opening bat – to hold the baton. At any price, I wanted MS Dhoni.
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“The reason I felt very confident was I felt the other people did not know arithmetic. They had said that they will give 10 percent [15 percent] more to the icon player, because they all wanted an icon. Punjab wanted Yuvraj Singh, Delhi wanted Virender Sehwag, Bangalore Rahul Dravid, Mumbai Sachin Tendulkar. They asked me, I said no. My father taught me some arithmetic. I figured out if 1.5 million out of five went to the icon players – then what are you left with to get the rest of the 22 players.”
Dhoni’s bidding started from the base price of US$400,000 and by the time the bids crossed the US$900,000 mark, only two teams were in the fray, Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings.
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“Suddenly, Mumbai was bidding up to 1.5 million for Dhoni. Then they realised that they have to give the icon player 10 percent [15 percent] more than what they give the most expensive player. They said 3.5 million, everything gone, and they collapsed. And that is how MS Dhoni came to Chennai. It was 100 per cent arithmetic. No other reason why we got him [Dhoni]. The anxiety to get their [other franchises] favourite player was greater than their arithmetic.”
Dhoni was retained by Super Kings ahead of the 2022 players’ auction for Rs 12 crore. Last October, immediately after Super Kings won the 2021 IPL, Srinivasan had said that Dhoni would always be “part and parcel” of not just the franchise, but also the city of Chennai. “There is no CSK without Dhoni and there is no Dhoni without CSK,” Srinivasan had said.
Dhoni has led the Super Kings right from the first season in 2008, taking them to four titles. CSK has made the playoffs in every IPL it has been a part of, barring 2020.