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Dhoni's mysterious retirement: Was it just about performance?

Given his recent poor run, it is clear Mahendra Singh Dhoni is past his shelf life as captain. By walking out at such a juncture, he has not solved a problem, but seems to have created one.

cricket Updated: Feb 08, 2015 11:50 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Hindustan Times
Mahendra Singh Dhoni,MS Dhoni,Test cricket

Given his recent poor run, it is clear Mahendra Singh Dhoni is past his shelf life as captain. By walking out at such a juncture, he has not solved a problem, but seems to have created one. Losing a player during the heat of battle can unsettle any team. Here, India have lost their commander-in-chief.

Such an upheaval can have serious implications for the team. The Test series is already lost, but in a month's time, India will be defending the World Cup title. The timing of the decision has left many flummoxed. There's a feeling there are other reasons behind Dhoni's abrupt retirement.

The manner of announcement was also strange. He addressed a press conference, where he gave no hint that he had played his last Test. Even though the BCCI secretary, Sanjay Patel, said the decision was not taken in haste, he admitted he was taken by surprise when Dhoni called to inform, his immediate reaction being: "are you injured or what?"

"I was a bit taken aback by the suddenness of his statement. But we had spoken about it before the Test also," said Patel. By not clearing the air, it has ensured India will be under extra scrutiny during their campaign Down Under with more talk that all's not well in the camp.

The tour didn't begin on the right note for Dhoni. His team capitulated from a good position in Brisbane, and the captain blamed 'unrest' in the dressing room for the debacle.

India captain MS Dhoni plays a shot during the final day of the third Test match against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. (AFP Photo)

Was he unhappy with something in the dressing room?

The said incident happened between Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan. But, by referring to it in public, it seemed to put the captain in direct confrontation with the captain-in-waiting. Then for the first time, there was direct comparison between the aggressive style of Kohli, the way he led in Adelaide, and the sedate style of Dhoni. So, whether all of it had made Dhoni feel insecure?

Those who have known him from time he started playing in Ranchi feel something is amiss. The BCCI maintains it was a well thought out decision, but not everyone is buying it.

"While he was here (Ranchi), recuperating from the injury, before leaving for Australia, he gave no such hint," said his close confidante. "My feeling is something has happened there."

The standout feature of Dhoni's career has been how, even under extreme pressure, he never allowed it to affect his personal performance. In the last summer's debacle in England, he was a lone warrior with bat in hand.

MS Dhoni announced his retirement from Test cricket with immediate effect on Tuesday after India lost the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to Australia. (AP Photo)

In Australia, for the first time, he looked subdued. The body language didn't seem the same. "He is a man of few words, but his confidence can be made out from the look in his eyes. This time, it didn't feel like he was in the mood to play," said his confidante.

Also, he has been feeling the pressure due to the ongoing Supreme Court hearings on the Indian Premier League controversy. It is to resume during the last Test. If that was the case, why didn't he take the decision before the start of the series?

He had a long discussion with N Srinivasan, the man he owes his long reign in Indian cricket to, before announcing to the world. As of now, the two should know what transpired in Australia.

Whatever the reason, experts are convinced Dhoni had to go. Hindustan Times columnist, Ian Chappell, observed during the Melbourne Test that this India team had the potential to excel away from home if Kohli was made captain. "India could be a real powerhouse in eighteen months when they gain a little more experience - with one proviso - they won't reach those levels with M S Dhoni as captain."

Watch: How Dhoni performed as Indian cricket team captain?

First Published: Dec 30, 2014 23:47 IST