Kolkata, Feb 19

Rising Pune Supergiants on Sunday removed Mahendra Singh Dhoni as captain of the franchise for the 10th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the owners announced on Sunday.

Australia captain Steve Smith will take over the mantle from the former India skipper.

The move comes after Dhoni stepped down as the national team captain in the limited-overs format before the start of the England series.

“I have the highest regard for M.S. 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,” Rising Pune Supergiants owner Sanjiv Goenka said in a statement.

Smith, 27, is considered as one of the best batsmen among the current generation. The Australian Test and One-Day International (ODI) sides captain has been part several IPL franchises in the past with stints with Pune Warriors, Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore.

The decision to name him the Pune team’s skipper comes a day before the players’ auctions scheduled to be held in Bengaluru.

Dhoni has been the most successful in skippering the now suspended IPL side Chennai Super Kings, leading the southern outfit to two crowns in in 2010 and 2011. Besides, he also led Chennai to the Champions League T20 trophies in 2010 and 2014.

He was the first to be picked in the only draft of players held in the IPL in December 2015, and two new franchises Pune and Gujarat Lions were given the option of choosing up to five players each from Chennai and Rajasthan Royals which were suspended for two years.

The decision sent twitter in a tizzy with support for the 2011 World Cup winning capatin pouring from all quarters.

“IPL will no more b the same without #MSDhoni captaincy..Its an end of an era. Luv you #Mahi. U’ll always b my #captaincool,” tweeted Karan Rai using the hashtag #IPLAuction which is slated to take centre stage in Bengaluru on Monday.

“If no msdhoni then no rps for me an dhoni fans… He knows wen to quit ..next year he ll b back in csk as our all-time fav thala,” tweeted a CSK and Dhoni faithful.

Pune just about avoided finishing rock bottom, ending their campaign ahead of Kings XI Punjab at the seventh place in the eight-team standings of IPL 2015.

Although the team started well with a win over Mumbai Indians in the first match, it failed to maintain the consistency with the likes of Kevin Pietersen, Faf du Plessis and Steven Smith all withdrawing due to injuries. (IANS)

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