MS Dhoni came in 20th on ESPNís World Fame 100 list of the biggest names in sport.

The ranking was based on a combination of search score, ó how many times an athleteís name was searched for on the internet ó endorsements and social following. It placed the former India captain between footballer Gareth Bale (19th) and tennis player Maria Sharapova (21st).

One wonders what would have happened if the algorithm could take into account the sheer volume with which an athlete is welcomed out to the middle.

The cheer that welcomed Dhoni out to Chennaiís Chepauk Stadium on Sunday would have been staggering in a match. Given it was simply for a practice session, it was ludicrous and said plenty about the special place Dhoni and Indian Premier League outfit the Chennai Super Kings have in the cityís heart.

The Super Kings will begin their title defence on Sunday (1:30am EDT on Fox Cricket) against Virat Kohliís ó the one cricketer to beat Dhoni on ESPNís World Fame rankings ó Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Having captained India to World Twenty20 and World Cup glory and to top of the Test rankings, Dhoni has a following within cricket only rivalled by the likes of Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar. However, within Chennai even Tendulkar and Kohli would struggle to match the wicketkeeperís popularity.

After all, he is the man who captained the cityís franchise to two of the first four IPL titles and a third in 2018 in their first season back from a two-year suspension.

It should be noted that there have been casualties of the sheer ferocity of Dhoniís fandom.

Just last week, rookie India keeper Rishabh Pant was jeered by his own home crowd during the fourth one-day international against Australia simply because he was not Dhoni.