MS Dhoni may no longer be the captain of Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS), but owner Sanjiv Goenka has said he still considers the former India cricket team skipper as one of the core members of the team.
Speaking at the Indian Premier League (IPL) pre-season press conference of the franchise on Thursday, Goenka refused to comment on MS Dhoni’s absence, but said the wicketkeeper-batsman would join the team on April 3.
“The league is about to start. Our first game is on April 6. Mahi will be with us in Pune from the 3rd. He will have a very good output in the tournament. Steve (Smith) and Mahi have been constantly in touch. They were together even during the team selection. It’s completely amicable,” said Goenka.
Asked for the reasons behind the appointment of Steve Smith as RPS captain in place of Dhoni, Goenka instead went on to lavish praise on the latter.
“There has been a lot of talk regarding captaincy. I will say two things, every time I have interacted with Mahi, I came away with some learning.
“He is one of the sharpest brains I have interacted with, and I walk away with tremendous respect for him, as an individual, as a leader, as a player. I am one of his biggest fans,” he said.
Meanwhile, new skipper Smith said Dhoni had been supportive despite his removal from captaincy.
“We have shared some messages and MS has been very supportive. So there are no issues there. (My appointment as RPS captain) doesn’t change my professional relationship with him or anyone else in the team,” Smith stated.
Ajinkya Rahane, who was present at the press conference, said all the players continue to look up to Dhoni.
“A player like Dhoni is an inspiration for players. He may no longer be captain, but players will get to learn a lot from him, from his approach to matches to how his mind operates before, during and after games,” he said.