July 9, 2019. That was the last time we saw MS Dhoni play cricket, knowing fully at that moment, that it was a luxury we had borrowed from time.

MS Dhoni world cup
Source: Sportskeeda

The match was the first semi-final of the World Cup between India and New Zealand, and our hearts were hoping against hope that Mahi would take us over the line. Once again.

That didn't happen, it was just not that day. We knew the moment this happened.

ms dhoni in world cup semifinal
Source: DNA India

What followed were tears, feeling of helplessness and the wait to see him again in the T20 World Cup.

Not realising at the time, that one inch between Dhoni's bat and the crease will create an immeasurable distance between him and his fans.

dhoni in world cup semifinal
Source: NDTV

World T20 was supposed to take place in 2020 but we were oblivious to what was coming our way. In a matter of few months, cricket took a back seat because every person in the world was facing a new challenge - of saving their life.

In some less anxious moments, we would miss the sport though, and Mahi fans would think of the time he'd wear India jersey again.

dhoni playing for India
Source: Scroll

That couldn't happen. The virus proved to be more stubborn than we had thought and Dhoni decided to retire from international cricket.

These things, the repeated heartbreaks, make today's match special. Dhoni is coming back to the field.

After a handful of ups and innumerable downs, we will finally be able to see him play again.

In the bigger scheme of things, it seems like a very small joy, but if we have learnt anything in the last few months, it's to appreciate the little things.

Because let's face it, his stint with the IPL is going to end sooner than later. 2022 is what even the most hopeful amongst us are looking at.

After that, he will be gone from cricket altogether. His spontaneity, lightening-fast stumpings, shots, honesty, smile - we don't have a lot of time to witness these.

dhoni playing for CSK
Source: DNA India

And while this is not an ideal time for reality checks, it is true that the beginning of another end starts today. So this match is special. This tournament is special.

MS Dhoni IPL
Source: Hindustan Times

Much like the national team, Dhoni's name is synonymous to 'captain' for CSK. He has led the squad in every edition it has played, and made it the most successful IPL team in many ways.

Sometimes, against all expectations (remember the 'dad's army' that won the trophy?).

He has seen many lows, too. CSK was suspended for 2 years (2016 and 2017) for involvement in a betting case, and the players had to find another home during that time. However, when the team came back, it came back with a bang...and won.

CSK 2018 win
Source: Essentially Sports

Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians will be playing the first match of IPL 2020, by virtue of being the runner-up and winner of the last season, respectively.

Which reminds me of the 2019 final. Another Dhoni run-out, Shane Watson's bleeding knee and the 1-run loss.

What a game it was.

After the match, Dhoni had said:

It was quite a funny game, we were passing the trophy to each other. Both committed mistakes, and eventually the winning team was the one that committed one mistake less. Our bowlers did really well...the batsmen could've done better. Hopefully yes, we'll see you next year."

I don't think anyone realised the gravity of the last line in 2019. It has a completely different meaning now.

dhoni IPL 2019
Source: DNA

The meaning, the joy of watching Dhoni play remains unchanged though and we can't wait for that to happen.

Looking forward to seeing the jersey number 7 on field. It's been too long.