MS Dhoni certainly likes to make decisions out of the blue. Having made his intentions of captaining India until the 2019 World Cup clear many a time, despite repeated questions over his retirement, the India wicketkeeper announced he is stepping down as the skipper of the ODI and T20 teams on Wednesday.
Dhoni surprised everyone by announcing his retirement from Test match cricket in late 2014, after India had suffered a couple of difficult defeats away from home.
While there was a semblance of sense to that decision, one does wonder what went through Dhoni's mind before making the latest one. Yes, the great man has not been at his absolute best with the bat in recent times; yes his limited-overs powers are on the wane; but as a thinker, a calculator on the field, a just-go-with-your-instincts-man captain, there still is nobody better.
Of course, the fact that Virat Kohli has been ridiculously successful as Test captain might have made the decision easier for Dhoni, because the veteran knows he is handing over the reins to a capable man, but, on the back of his mind, he might also fear that if he relinquishes his captaincy, his role in the team might come under extra scrutiny, especially with players like Rishabh Pant making such a big impact.
But then, the positive way to look at it is by thinking the decision to step down as captain – he is, without too much argument, India's greatest ever limited-overs captain and arguably the greatest ever the world has seen – will allow Dhoni to prolong his career a little bit more. He won't have to worry too much about tactics; he won't have to go for the pre-match and post-match press conferences, something he loathes; he won't have to worry about tosses and pitches and team decisions – he can just knuckle down and concentrate on his wicketkeeping and, more importantly, his batting.
It is hard to believe that he might have gotten a nudge from somewhere regarding his future as captain, so the belief remains that this was his own decision, 100 per cent, like the Test retirement. And if that is the case, it shows that Dhoni has his eyes firmly set on returning to his best ODI and T20 ways, on being that clinical batsman who won matches over and over for India.
Or even the carefree, six-hitting-for-fun one, that turned him into one of the most popular players in Indian cricket history. The eyes might not be the best now, the hands may have slowed, but the power is still very much there and an uncluttered mind can do great things, something Dhoni will now have the luxury of.
With such a great captain in Kohli, Dhoni's decision to think about his batting alone makes sense, both for himself and India cricket.
There can be no better sight in cricket, as far as India fans are concerned, than seeing Dhoni back to his destructive best – with the extra time available to him following his decision to retire from Tests, Dhoni has already been working hard on his batting, but by playing just as a batsman-wicketkeeper, it will help him make the No.4 slot, something he has wanted for a while, his own.
A Kohli-Dhoni batting lineup at No.3 and 4 in complete sync is limited-overs batting heaven (yes, the other word, but...), and then some, and hopefully, this decision will help turn that into a reality and push India into the dominant team they want to be in all forms of cricket. The Champions Trophy will be the next target and, who knows, if Dhoni finds his mojo again, maybe that 2019 World Cup could be his final, most magical of hurrahs.