Captain Cool won’t have to face the heat as captain of the Rising Pune Supergiants in the 10th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) starting April.
Australia’s Steve Smith replaces Mahendra Singh Dhoni as skipper for the tournament.
The owners of the Supergiants, who finished second last in their first IPL outing in 2016, were looking for a captain “without the ghosts of the past”. Smith, according to them, fits the bill.
It is indeed sad that one of the best captains in the IPL or any other format will not be directing the field.
Dhoni had really thrived in the IPL with the Chennai Super Kings, taking them to the title in 2010 and 2011 and finishing runners-up four times.
The Supergiants may have been a bit hasty in removing Dhoni from the top job. One season is not enough to judge a captain.
It must also be remembered that a captain is only as good as his team. Sadly, many of the top players in the Supergiants team underperformed.
This move may possibly hasten Dhoni’s retirement from cricket itself. He will turn 36 in July and is now in the winter of his cricket life.
However, age may not be such a big factor as Dhoni is one of the fittest men there is. It could be more a mental thing as Dhoni has played hundreds of matches across all formats since his debut in 2004 for India.
What is more worrying is the man who has been captaining sides for so many years may not find it easy to sustain interest as a player alone now.
Though he did very well after quitting the India captaincy recently, Dhoni knows that his skill as a batsman is also on the wane.
Smith, on the other hand, is aggressive in nature, like most Aussie captains. However, Australia’s record in the shorter formats of the game hasn’t been that good of late.
The Supergiants’ captaincy will provide Smith with the ideal stage to prove his worth.
The addition Ben Stokes for a whopping Rs 14.5 crores is a major boost for the captain.
The England all-rounder and Test vice-captain is the type of player who can change a game in a minute. He has also done well during the recent tour of India which is an additional bonus.
Smith has another big weapon in his armoury – Ravichandran Ashwin. If there is one criticism of Dhoni, it is that he has underutilised one of the premier bowlers in the world.
Smith must rectify that to get the best of a bowler who is in top form currently.
This will be Smith’s biggest test. With multitudes thronging the stadium leading to a pressure cooker situation daily, Smith can only better his captaincy.
David Warner did that for the Sunrisers Hyderabad last year and won them a maiden title.
The SuperGiants have loads of talent. It just needs to be harnessed to get the best out of the team. With Dhoni by his side, Smith should be able to do it.