Mahendra Singh Dhoni, one of the most successful captains of the Indian Premier League (IPL), has stepped down as the skipper of Pune franchise of the league before the start of the 2017 season and replaced by Australian Steve Smith.
Dhoni, who had stepped down as India's limited-overs captain to snap his international run as skipper earlier this year, will, however, continue to be a part of the Pune franchise as a player.
"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," Rising Pune Supergiants owner Sanjiv Goenka told PTI.
This is the first time that the 35-year-old, who had stepped down from Team India captaincy on his own terms in all formats, has been removed from the top position.
The decision comes a day before the players' auctions scheduled to be held in Bengaluru.
"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," Goenka added.
The most expensive player of the tournament that began in 2008, Dhoni also has been among the most successful.
Part of the now suspended Chennai Super Kings franchise from 2008 to 2015, Dhoni led the team to back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011. Besides, he also led Chennai to the Champions League T20 trophies in 2010 and 2014.
He was the first one picked in the only draft held in the IPL, in December 2015, after Chennai and Rajasthan Royals were suspended for two years and two new franchises -- Pune and Gujarat Lions -- were given the option of choosing up to five players each.
He has been with the Pune franchise ever since. The man replacing him in the leadership role, the 27-year-old Smith, is currently the captain of the Australian cricket team in all three formats.
He was appointed Test captain in 2014/15 and he took over the ODI captaincy reigns after the 2015 World Cup.
Pune, who were one of the two teams along with Gujarat Lions to be inducted last season in place of the the suspended Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, were plagued with injury issues.
They just about avoided the wooden spoon to finish 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.
(With inputs from PTI)