Former India skipper MS Dhoni has been removed as captain of Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS) ahead of the upcoming 10th edition of the cash-rich league. Australia captain Steve Smith will take over for the 2017 season, starting 5 April, according to reports in the Indian media.
Dhoni was appointed as the skipper of RPS, who made their debut in 2016 along with Gujarat Lions, after his former team Chennai Super Kings (CSK) were suspended due to spot-fixing issues. In their first season, the Pune-based franchise had a horrid time losing nine of their 14 games in the group stages. The captain himself suffered due to lack of form, scoring only 284 runs, which was also his lowest tally in a single season.
RPS owner Sanjeev Goenka has reportedly revealed that a bad season in 2016 forced them to come up with the decision and that Dhoni has been informed about it. He added that the wicketkeeper-batsman was highly supportive of the team's decision.
"Dhoni has not stepped down. We have appointed Steve Smith as the skipper for the upcoming season. Frankly speaking, we did not have a good last season and we wanted someone young to lead the side and revamp it ahead of the upcoming season 10," Goenka told the Press Trust of India, a day ahead of IPL auction in Bengaluru, as quoted by Deccan Chronicle.
"I have the highest regard for MS Dhoni as a leader and a person. Dhoni continues to be an integral member of our team. He is supportive of the decision keeping the franchise's best interests in mind."
Notably, Dhoni stepped down as the skipper of Indian limited-overs team only last month ahead of the England series handing over the baton to Virat Kohli. The World Cup-winning Indian captain established himself as one of the most successful IPL skippers as well, winning the league twice with CSK [2010 and 2011] and the Champions League twice [2010 and 2014].
Dhoni, who has scored 3271 runs from 143 matches across nine seasons of IPL, will still be an integral part of the RPS set-up. Notably, he scored his 10th One Day International century against England in a winning cause only last month.