“OK, THAT’S it.” M S Dhoni needed just three words to let the chairman of selectors, M S K Prasad, know late Wednesday evening that he was ready to step down as India’s captain in ODIs and T20s.
Prasad told The Indian Express that he and Dhoni, who’s with the Jharkhand team as their non-playing mentor for the Ranji Trophy semifinals at Nagpur, had chatted earlier in the day, too.
Citing professional confidentiality that exists between a captain and his committee, the chief selector did not reveal anything more — apart from lauding Dhoni’s “amazing clarity of thought”.
WATCH VIDEO | Mahendra Singh Dhoni steps down as India ODI, T20I captain
However, those in the know said that the selection committee had shared with Dhoni their vision about India’s future in the shorter version under Test skipper Virat Kohli. There was consensus among the selectors that this was the right time to hand over the reins to Kohli, especially with India set to play only 55 ODIs before the next World Cup in 2019, and the Champions Trophy just five months away.
They still didn’t want to force anything on Dhoni and wanted him to have the final say. It’s learnt that they also felt it was crucial that the World Cup-winning captain was around to guide his successor in the early days of leading the team in the highly-demanding shorter forms.
“Virat is doing an excellent job with the Test team and we know he is ready. But the pressures of ODI captaincy are different. And they wanted MS to be around, overseeing matters on the field and guiding Virat as he takes his first few steps as the limited-overs captain,” said sources. “They didn’t want a situation where MS hangs up his boots and Virat is left to take on the mantle all by himself.”
For the record, Dhoni’s Test retirement had come completely out of the blue following the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne on December 30, 2014, with one match still to go in the series. His sudden departure then meant that the captaincy was thrust upon Kohli for the final Test in Sydney.
While there has been speculation regarding Dhoni’s future in the game for quite some time, his agent Arun Pandey told The Indian Express that his client wasn’t going anywhere soon. He also insisted that the 2019 World Cup was still very much a part of Dhoni’s plans.
“All great leaders know when to quit. He knows the team is ready. He still has plans to play international cricket for the next three to four years and play the 2019 World Cup. He’s arguably still the fittest cricketer in the country presently,” said Pandey.