Captain Cool steps aside

Author Published: 6th Jan 2017   2:00 am Updated: 25th Feb 2017   3:38 pm

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s announcement to step down as captain of the One Day team must have come as a surprise for a cricket aficionado. But in the cricketing corridors, it was expected and there was a hint that India’s greatest ODI captain would sooner or later make way for Virat Kohli, who was taking giant strides as Test captain ever since he was handed over the mantle in Australia two years ago. Somewhere in his mind, captain Dhoni might have also thought it is time to give up the ODI and T20 captaincy and clear the way for Kohli’s continuity in the game. With Kohli fully asserting himself as captain of the Indian Test team, perhaps a sense of uncertainty also had crept into Dhoni’s mind. Captaincy can be an extra baggage. Dhoni has been carrying the burden since 2007. He took India to the pinnacle of glory by winning the T20 World Cup in South Africa in his first tour as captain, broke the home jinx by clinching the 2011 ODI World Cup in Mumbai and bagged the Asia Cup at Dhaka last year. Apart from that, he led India to the Champions Trophy in England in 2013. He captained India in 199 ODIs with a win percentage of 59.57 — 110 wins and 74 losses. In the T20, he led in 72 matches with an average of 59.28, 41 wins and 28 losses.

When chairman of selectors, MSK Prasad, went to meet Dhoni at Nagpur, where he was with the Jharkhand team as a mentor for the Ranji Trophy semifinal, he got the news that Dhoni wanted to step down as captain and will be available as a player for both ODIs and T20s. Though Prasad was taken aback, he respected Dhoni’s decision. Keeping an eye on the next World Cup in England — that is two years from now — Dhoni realised that it was the right time to hand over the charge to Kohli. He could act as a mentor and keep his place as a wicketkeeper-batsman. Easily among the most endearing and self-made cricketers, Dhoni was known as Captain Cool. He was always calm and never allowed anyone to get an inclination of what was brewing inside him. That was his biggest strength. He took many a gamble and that proved successful. Like the 2011 World Cup in Mumbai against Sri Lanka, he promoted himself ahead of the in-form Yuvraj Singh and led India to victory. Not many could read the ODI better than Dhoni. He was a General who knew and utilised the strengths of his soldiers. Dhoni has not as yet quit the game, per se, but when he does, cricket fans will surely miss him.