After Mahendra Singh Dhoni sprung the surprise announcement that he is stepping down as India's captain in the limited overs format in Wednesday, there has been a wave of tributes and some speculation pouring in.
Why did he choose to step down with the ICC Champions Trophy coming up in June? Does this mean his retirement isn't far away? Can anyone replace Dhoni, the wicketkeeper, even if there are able replacements as captain? And, why the sudden announcement and what prompted it.
Now, an exclusive report by the Hindustan Times has suggested that Dhoni may not taken the decision himself, rather it may have been forced upon him by the Indian selectors.
The newspaper has quoted unnamed sources saying that Dhoni was asked by the selectors to step down from captaincy since his time was up. "Sources in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) told Hindustan Times that Mahendra Singh Dhoni did not step down on his own. Selection committee chairman MSK Prasad had met the 35-year-old in Nagpur during last week’s Ranji Trophy semifinal between Jharkhand, Dhoni’s home state, and Gujarat," says the report.
Dhoni, who retired from the longer version of the game in 2015 handing over the reins to Virat Kohli, was reportedly told that in order to plan for the future of the limited overs side — with an eye on 2019 World Cup when he will be 39 — Kohli should be given the full mantle of leadership.
The reasons why Kohli should take over captaincy were discussed again with Dhoni during the last week’s Ranji Trophy game in Nagpur, where he was present as the mentor of Jharkhand, and soon after, he decided to step down, continues the report.
Kohli, who has enjoyed great success as the Test captain of the team, is considered the natural choice for Dhoni's successor and his recent results must have only added to the reasons.
Dhoni has captained India in 199 ODIs and 72 T20Is and led the country to their second ODI World Cup in 2011 and into the semi-finals of the 2015 World Cup.