Sandeep Patil, India’s former chairman of selectors, has said “there were lots of discussions” around the future of MS Dhoni’s limited-overs captaincy around the time he retired from Test cricket in December 2014. Dhoni’s unexpected exit from the longest format mid-way through India’s Test series in Australia came as a “shock”, Patil said, but he was happy that Dhoni decided to move on when he realised his mental and physical fitness were not up to scratch.
Patil, whose four-year term as chief selector ended recently, said his panel deliberated making a leadership change in ODIs then, but eventually decided not to, keeping in mind the 2015 World Cup was only a couple of months away at the time. “Absolutely [Dhoni’s captaincy was under threat]. There were lots of discussions that happened regarding that, [and] it’s not like they happened once, they happened a lot,” Patil told ABP News. “There was discussion about his one-day captaincy, there were discussions on his finishing…
“But we selected him because… a time had come, the World Cup had come – [if] you try, before the World Cup, giving a new player the captaincy seat, [you should] give him a good run. But that opportunity didn’t come to the selectors. We didn’t have enough time to experiment.”
Dhoni, who still captains India in ODIs and T20s, had announced his retirement shortly after the Boxing Day Test ended in Melbourne, with the team trailing 2-0 after three matches with one to play. Patil said that Australian tour was a tough one for the team and Dhoni’s decision was “sudden”, but he was best placed to decide on his future. “I wouldn’t want to say… that it was a sinking ship, but it was a tough series. Our players had to face quite a few difficulties there, the performance wasn’t quite right, save for Virat Kohli.
“In such a situation, for a senior player to take this decision – to suddenly take this decision – was shocking. There was a lot of discussion even among us [selectors], ‘How did this happen?’
“But it was his decision. What the player is thinking and understands… his body, his thinking, his fitness, only he can decide on all those things. Selectors can’t decide that. I feel that Dhoni understood this and took the right decision at the right time.”
Patil said the selectors did ask Dhoni about the timing of his retirement when the panel next met to select an ODI squad. But, in the end, the decision was a selfless one, he said. “[Since it was mid-way through a series], we questioned him and his response was that ‘this is the level of contribution that should be coming from me to the team, when that wasn’t happening, then I myself felt that I should be out’. Very few players can take a decision like that. Very few players can think like that. Everyone generally thinks I should play more, let me play one more series, let me play for another year…”
The other big retirement Patil’s panel had to deal with was even more high-profile: the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar. Patil recollected the precise moment he first had a chat with Tendulkar about his plans for the future, in December 2012. Patil said Tendulkar made the decision to quit ODIs after he and fellow selector Rajinder Hans had that chat with him during the Nagpur Test against England. The selectors, Patil said, did not force anything on Tendulkar.
“I remember, it was a Test match in Nagpur, December, 2012. After Sachin got out, that was when we, the selectors, decided that we will go to Sachin and ask him what his intention is. And that was a job I did, because I was the chairman, and Hans paaji was also with me, and we spoke to him to know what he had in mind.
“We have never told any player, let it be Sachin Tendulkar or any other player, ‘that is enough, now we are going to drop you’. We wanted to ask ‘what’s the plan in your mind’. [And] Sachin wanted to focus more on Test cricket. So when we spoke – and it was quite an open discussion – he decided that he will retire from one-day cricket and, in front of me, he called Sanjay Jagdale, who was the [BCCI] secretary then. He himself said ‘I don’t want to play one-day cricket now’. I felt that was a very good thing, what Sachin did.”
Tendulkar’s Test retirement came a year later, following a farewell series against West Indies in November 2013.y, became annoyed. And I understand why they became displeased, but the sport is such that when you… retire, many things come out; many things that you shouldn’t say, you end up saying, and later there is repentance. But we don’t place much importance on these things.”