After a report claimed that Mahendra Singh Dhoni was asked to step down as captain of the Indian limited-overs side by the selectors, MSK Prasad, the chairman of India's selection panel has rubbished the allegations.
Prasad, in an exclusive chat with CricketNext, flatly denied the claims. "There was no pressure on Dhoni to resign from captaincy. It was his personal decision. He informed me during the Ranji Trophy semi-final between Jharkhand and Gujarat in Nagpur," he said.
The former India wicketkeeper insisted that Dhoni's decision wasn't unexpected and that he had timed it perfectly, given that this was the ideal opportunity for Virat Kohli to take over as captain in all three formats.
"Dhoni is an honest man and the decision didn't come as a surprise. It was timed perfectly as Kohli needs enough matches to settle down going into the Champions Trophy," he told CricketNext.
Prasad went on to thank the wicketkeeper-batsman and said that Dhoni would continue to have an important role as a mentor. "I thank Dhoni for his contribution, but his job doesn't end here and he needs to guide Kohli."
Dhoni, who will continue playing in the limited-overs format, seems keen to be a mentor to the younger players. He was recently with his state team Jharkhand as they played their Ranji Trophy semi-final and has always made it a point to interact with young and upcoming cricketers.
The exclusive report by the Hindustan Times has suggested that Dhoni did not take the decision to relinquish captaincy himself, but was forced to make way for Kohli by the selectors. Quoting unnamed sources, the report claimed that Prasad had met the 35-year-old in Nagpur during last week’s Ranji Trophy semi-final and conveyed the message.
Dhoni has captained India in 199 ODIs and 72 T20Is and led the country to its second ODI World Cup title in 2011 and to the semi-finals in 2015. He had retired from the longer version of the game in 2014, handing over the reins to Kohli, leading to a rare split captaincy in Indian cricket.
With this decision, Kohli has the full mantle of leadership and will begin the year, in which the team has to defend their Champions Trophy crown, with an ODI and T20 home series against England.