“Split captaincy does not work in India”, said Mahendra Singh Dhoni as he explained his shock decision to step down from India’s limited-overs leadership and asserted that the team under Virat Kohli will rewrite history by becoming the most successful ever.
Dhoni, who stunned the Indian cricket fraternity with his decision to quit captaincy ahead of the ODI series against England which begins on Sunday, said he does not believe in having different captains for different formats.
“I don’t believe in split captaincy. For the team there has to be only one leader…Split captaincy doesn’t work in India, I was waiting for the right time. I wanted Virat to ease into the job. There is no wrong decision in it. This team has potential to do well in all three formats. I felt it was right time to move on,” Dhoni said in his first media interaction since stepping down from captaincy a fortnight ago.
— BCCI (@BCCI) 13 January 2017
“Virat and this team will win more games than me. I feel it will be the most successful team ever. That’s the kind of experience and potential they have. They have played in knockout tournaments, they have played under pressure. I firmly believe that this will be the team that will rewrite history. They will do very well,” he added.
Recalling the chain of events leading up to his decision, Dhoni said he had informed the BCCI well in advance. He said it had been playing on his mind ever since he quit Test captaincy during the tour of Australia in 2014.
“I believe that one player leading the team is crucial. It was on my mind when Virat took over the Test captaincy. I wanted him to take over and ease into the job. I wanted to be around for some game and now I finally decided that it was time to move on and give Virat captaincy (of limited overs teams as well),” he said.
Asked how quitting captaincy would impact his role in the side, Dhoni said he would continue to give his suggestions and opinions to Kohli.
“Wicketkeeper is always the vice-captain of the side. I will have to keep a close eye on what the skipper wants. I already had a chat with Virat on where he wants his fields. I will have to be aware,” he said.
“I will be there to give as many suggestions to him as and when he wants. I will have to keep a close eye to read the field positioning,” he added.
The 35-year-old, under whom India won both the ODI and the Twenty20 World Cup, said he had thoroughly enjoyed his stint as the leader despite the many ups and downs he witnessed.
“I don’t regret anything in life. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Plenty of good things happened, difficult to pick one. It’s been a journey for me, the ups and downs. When I started, lot of senior player were in the side. I tried to groom the youngsters. Once the seniors left us, from that point till now, the juniors have done well. They have taken the legacy of Indian cricket forward,” he said.
“It was a journey I really enjoyed and it brings a smile on my face when I think of it. Whether it’s tough or easy, I have enjoyed the overall journey,” he added.
Quizzed on the dynamics of his equation with Kohli, Dhoni said it has always been a relationship of mutual respect.
“We have been very close. Virat was always somebody who wanted to improve in whatever chances he got, always wanted to give more. That was the key factor. We have interacted a lot. He has improvised his cricket and his thinking. He will keep getting better. My job will be to assist him wherever needed, giving him my thoughts from behind the stumps. That’s the real asset of the wicketkeeper,” he said.
“From my side, it will be a flow of information. Information that doesn’t confuse and then he can pick and choose. The good thing is that if I go up with 100 ideas to him, he can say no to all of them. That is important because he has to take the responsibility. So the more I can serve to him, the more he can pick and choose, and the better it will be for Indian cricket,” he explained.
On whether he would consider a change in his batting position, which has mostly been lower down the order so far, Dhoni said, “Since I was the captain, I wanted to take added responsibility of playing lower down the order. I would have preferred batting at four but then if somebody is more comfortable at four, that gives our team more power. At the end of the day team is more important than individual.
“Whatever the demands of the team, I am ready to bat there.”
Dhoni also spoke about what he thought was the role of the leader in a team.
“The main job of the captain is to ensure that potential of the players is achieved. You have to be practical, you have to be honest. You should know how to handle individuals. You have to figure out what really works. You have to be clever enough to evaluate. The leader’s job is to get the best out of the team,” he said.
The reticent cricketer also touched on his relationship with the media, saying that he never liked coming for pre-match press conferences.
“I always believed that there are too many press conferences. We don’t need press conference everyday. I always felt, there is too much exposure. I thought it’s a waste of time to have pre-match press conferences by captains. I always felt, post match is when captain can express himself, pre-match I think is a waste of time,” he said.