Mahendra Singh Dhoni's decision to quit as ODI and T20 skipper came as a surprise to many. In another controversial development, reports are now emerging that Dhoni did not quit on his own terms as leader, but was asked to step down as captain of the ODI and T20 squads by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The pressure had been rising on Dhoni to step down as captain as Virat Kohli's graph has risen steadily in Indian cricket. India have been unbeaten in Tests ever since Kohli has taken over as full-time skipper. Dhoni, on the other hand, has achieved mixed results as captain, and his personal form with the bat has also been patchy.
According to a report in Hindustan Times, sources in the BCCI told the paper that Dhoni was persuaded to step down on his own. The report added that the selection committee chairman MSK Prasad had met Dhoni during last week’s Ranji Trophy semi-final between Jharkhand and Gujarat. It was after this meeting that Dhoni put in his papers. There are also speculations that Dhoni ended up offending a top BCCI official from Jharkhand by not playing Ranji Trophy, and that's why the board also did not back him over the captaincy issue. The selectors apparently told Dhoni that he would be 39 by the time the 2019 World Cup is held, and hence needed to step aside.
Chairman of selectors MSK Prasad however rubbished reports of asking Dhoni to step down. Speaking exclusively to CricketNext, he said, "There was no pressure on Dhoni to resign from captaincy. It was his personal decision. He informed me during the Ranji Trophy semi-final between Jharkhand and Gujarat in Nagpur." Prasad went on to add, "Dhoni is an honest man and the decision didn't come as a surprise. It was timed perfectly as Kohli needs enough matches to settle down going into the Champions Trophy. I thank Dhoni for his contribution, but his job doesn't end here and he needs to guide Kohli."
While Dhoni remains India's most successful captain, of late his fortunes have not shone brightly. In 2015, they were beaten at home by South Africa in an ODI series. In early 2016, India were handed a 1-4 pasting in Australia. Even the win against New Zealand at home late last year was not impressive. They scraped through with a 3-2 win in the final match. There were also a number of matches in which he failed to finish off games, as India lost matches from what seemed like comfortable positions. India were also knocked out in the semi-finals of the 2016 World T20 played at home, where they were favourites.
In contrast, at his peak, Dhoni led India to victory in the 2007 World T20, to resurrect Indian cricket after the debacle of the 50-over World Cup that year. Under him, India regained the World Cup at home in 2011, becoming the first host nation to lift the trophy. Dhoni was also in charge when India won the Champions Trophy in 2013. He led India to the number one ranking in Tests, but that was based on a string of successful home performances. Under him, India suffered back-to-back series defeats in England as well as Australia. Dhoni ended up retiring from Tests midway through the 2014 tour of Australia. Not surprisingly, his quitting as limited overs leader has also made headlines for varied reasons.
--By A Cricket Correspondent