Quiet end to a glorious era

India enjoyed unprecedented highs during Mahendra Singh Dhoni's reign

Quiet end to a glorious era
Just as he had quit Test captaincy without any drama, Mahendra Singh Dhoni relinquished his job as India’s limited-overs skipper without a whimper. An email from the BCCI, not unlike when he retired from Tests in Melbourne in December 2014, disclosed Dhoni’s desire to step down from the post that he had held from 2007. 

The stumper’s exit from the top job brings to an end a glittering captaincy career that was decorated with a World Cup (50 overs) triumph in 2011, the World T20 victory in 2007 and the Champions Trophy title in 2013. Dhoni had also presided over India’s rise to the top of Test rankings in 2009. Dhoni led India in 199 ODIs, winning 110, losing 74, tying 4 and with no result in 11. He also led India in 72 T20Is of which 41 resulted in wins and 28 in losses. One was tied and two had ended in no result.

Coming from the cricketing outpost of Jharkhand, Dhoni’s emergence as India’s most successful captain across all formats is a stirring story. Success came immediately to Dhoni who led an inexperienced bunch of Indians to the inaugural World T20 title in South Africa. Soon after he became the ODI captain as well after Rahul Dravid resigned from captaincy in the middle of the World T20 campaign.

Mixing his instincts with his unorthodox style, Dhoni enjoyed success after success. His decision to go at No 4 ahead of the in-form Yuvraj Singh and finish off the chase in the final of the 2011 World Cup against Sri Lanka was a testimony to his instinctive style of captaincy that helped India reap rich rewards. His stint as captain wasn’t without its share of controversies but it did little to diminish his legacy that was remarkable in its significance and unparalleled in its achievements. 

Though Dhoni, in a way, had expressed his desire to continue at the helm till the 2019 World Cup after India’s defeat to West Indies in the World T20 in March last, there was considerable pressure on him to hand over the reins to Virat Kohli who has been riding a wave of success in the longer format. While there is little doubt that Dhoni is still the best wicketkeeper-batsman available in the country for the shorter formats, each loss by India was only adding to the chorus for his ouster from the hot job.

Though his wicketkeeping skills remain as effective, there is no doubt that he wasn’t the same force with the bat. He had often struggled to finish off matches in the last couple of years and his ability to manufacture shots at will had waned considerably. At 35, Dhoni is still one of the fittest players around in the world but pitted against his own high standards in the not too distant past, he was definitely falling short of unreasonable expectations.

Dhoni made 6633 runs as ODI captain at an average of 54 and a strike rate of 86 while he amassed 1112 runs in the T20Is he led at a strike rate of 122.60. However, since the series against South Africa in October 2015, he had registered only two half-centuries in 15 ODI innings in his 490 runs which came at an average of 35, almost 20 runs less than his career average as captain.

In a recent interview, former selection committee chairman Sandeep Patil disclosed his panel had mulled replacing Dhoni at the helm but desisted from doing so keeping in mind the fact that the 2015 World Cup was around the corner. Whether such a message has gone from the MSK Prasad-headed present panel isn’t known but Dhoni’s surprise move transfers the reins to Kohli who can plan his path for the 2019 World Cup. The timing of the resignation is also significant as it gives Kohli ample time, heading into the defence of Champions Trophy in England this June.

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