IPL: Dhoni steps down as Pune Supergiants captain; Steven Smith to take over

After a dismal performance last season, the Rising Pune Supergiants franchise appoints Australian Smith as their new skipper.

MS Dhoni has stepped down as Pune Supergiants captain.

For the first time in the history of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Mahendra Singh Dhoni won't be donning the captain's hat when the action gets underway in April. After a dismal performance in the last season, Rising Pune Supergiants has decided to look beyond Dhoni as its skipper, and has passed on the baton to Australian Steven Smith.

While reports suggest that the former India captain has been sacked by the Sanjeev Goenka-owned franchise, the team officials has made it clear that it was Dhoni's decision to step down. "He (Dhoni) wanted to enjoy his game, and guide youngsters like Steve. We welcome his decision," a franchise official told Sportstar from Bangalore.

After entering the IPL arena last season, the Pune franchise failed to make it to the play-offs, and could only win five games. While some of Dhoni's decisions raised a few eyebrows, there were speculations that all were not well with the skipper and team management, though all the fronts stressed on the fact that all was well. Even after the tournament, team owner Goenka heaped praises on captain Dhoni for helping out the young guns. "MS has been a terrific leader, and there's no way we could ask him to go. This time too, his inputs will be extremely important for the side," the franchise official added.

Speculations of Dhoni being sacked, however, fuelled after team owner Goenka told a national television channel that he wasn't happy with the team's performance last season. "Despite having a good side the team did not get expected results last year. Last year we failed. We could have done much better," Goenka was quoted as saying. But later in the day, the franchise issued a statement, with the owner saying, "I have the highest regard for MS Dhoni as a leader and a person. Dhoni will continue to be an important part of our team. He is supportive of the decision keeping the franchisee's best interests in mind."

With the franchises gearing up for the auction in Banglaore on Monday, the Pune franchise's decision has certainly taken the cricketing world by a storm. While many subscribe to the idea that the captain has indeed been sacked, those who know Dhoni aren't too surprised with the decision. After all, it was just recently that 'Captain Cool' stepped down as India's ODI and T20 skipper, passing over the reigns to Virat Kohli.

More to follow...