MS Dhoni is the only captain in history to have won all three ICC trophies © Getty Images
MS Dhoni is the only captain in history to have won all three ICC trophies © Getty Images

And just like that, MS Dhoni walked away. Once again, without any fuss. On a late Wednesday evening when millions in India crawled back to their homes after a hard day at work, they were delivered the biggest news of the day, albeit a heartbreaking one. Having spent a decade watching a small-town cricketer rising as a leader of men, winning everything that ICC had to offer and transforming the very landscape of Indian cricket, Dhoni decided to relinquish a post for which he was probably born. Indians adulate Virat Kohli; he is the rightful heir to Dhoni. But at the same time, a very few imagine a team in which Dhoni is not at the helm.

An Indian team without Dhoni as captain. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? ‘Well of course, it had to happen’, are probably the words Dhoni would say had he been addressing the media right now. Of course, there would be a wide grin, and a sea of emotions. But Dhoni will display none.  Dhoni has remained India’s captain for close to a decade, and now that he steps down from the post and declares himself ‘available for selection’ for the upcoming England series, one cannot help but recall the saying ‘irony died a thousand deaths’.

‘Available’ for selection? Did Dhoni wish to clarify that he has only stepped down as the captain and will continue playing? Dhoni is not to be blamed entirely. A vast section of jingoistic Indian media would have flashed the development as ‘Dhoni retires’ and not ‘Dhoni quits limited-overs captaincy’ had he not clarified.

But, for the record, Dhoni is a natural selection into any team for limited-overs contests without any doubt.

It was impending. Dhoni’s Test retirement had served a precedent that he would turn up on any random day and make big announcements. No one should claim they were caught off-guard. After all, it is Dhoni; a captain who would hand over to his team the many trophies which he won.

There is no better judge than Dhoni over the timing of his two big announcements so far. The moment Dhoni saw he was not fit and hungry enough in Tests, he walked away. On special occasions, plucking out wickets is something Dhoni likes doing. That’s what he did in Melbourne, in his final Test which was a tame draw. It is only fitting that he has at least given himself a chance to do it whenever he deems it right, in limited-overs cricket.

But then, how much justified was Dhoni with the timing of stepping down as captain? Is this the beginning of the end, finally? The ICC Champions Trophy 2017 is not far away. Dhoni should be a part of the Indian contingent. But what about the 2019 World Cup? What about the innumerable claims from experts and pundits that Dhoni should continue till 2019?

What about Dhoni? Why is he of the opinion that the captain in him is finished and he wants to enjoy the last few years solely as a player? Form and fitness are not the concern. But what is alarming is Dhoni’s opinion on himself.

But if this decision has been incited with the thought that the next captain gets a good warm-up for 2019 World Cup by leading in the upcoming Champions Trophy, then Dhoni is one of the most selfless cricketers.

India would have breathed easy with Dhoni in charge, irrespective of how good Kohli has been as captain of the Test side. Dhoni’s experience as a leader and that too as defending captain would have surely benefitted India. But now, the whole cricket fraternity waits anxiously to see Dhoni the player.

And there are no doubts that Dhoni will be Kohli’s go-to man — assuming that the superstar rises to the post of captaincy in limited-overs cricket.

There are interesting times ahead.