Former chief selector Sandeep Patil has revealed how they had “lots of discussions” about MS Dhoni's ODI captaincy when he abruptly retired from Test cricket at the end of 2014. Patil also discussed how players' expectations have risen on farewells after Sachin but how it was a one-off occasion.
MS Dhoni had been under pressure all through 2014, but even so, his abrupt retirement from the long format was a shock to everyone. Dhoni retired in the midst of India's tour of Australia in December 2014 soon after the Boxing day Test, when India were still down 2-0, and Virat Kohli, who was the vice-captain, was appointed midway as the stand-in skipper. The selectors were equally shocked as the rest, it appears.
Speaking about the incident, ex-chief of selectors Sandeep Patil said, "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," reported ABP News.
However, the final decision ended up in Dhoni's retention because the times did not allow for any experimentation, he said.
"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," he said about the decision.
Patil, however, understood the pressures and challenges that were weighing on Dhoni and said that Dhoni was best-placed to have taken that call on his career. Patil said, "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," reported ABP.
Patil revealed that the panel was eventually convinced that Dhoni's decision was in the interests of the team and the best in the circumstances. "[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…"
Patil also recalled the time when Sachin Tendulkar decided upon his retirement.
"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.
However, he pointed out that Sachin's was a one-off case and that they were hard-pressed after the farewell as it was expected as the norm rather than the exception.
Virender Sehwag had refused to go down without a fight and had expressed his feelings even after his retirement that he was not allowed the farewell he deserved. Patil said, "If you decide that everybody should get a farewell, then it becomes wrong. And this decision is not the player's, it's the BCCI's. I can understand how it feels, because I too have come through that phase. You talk of Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar... The farewell that Sachin got, that was different.
"But, perhaps, after that, the expectation went up among the rest that 'I too should get one'. But it didn't happen, and they felt unhappy, 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," reported cricinfo.