The writing was on the wall the moment you saw Gautam Gambhir, Ricky Ponting and Delhi Daredevils CEO Hemant Dua walk out for a press conference two days before the team's second home game of the season. Gambhir, the astute leader who turned around Kolkata Knight Riders' fortunes, was struggling with the bat and his side was down, having won just one out of six matches. It was clear Gambhir was going, but the big question was whether he was jumping or being pushed or jumping before the push could come.
The franchise, the coach and now the former captain were emphatic in dismissing any suggestions Gambhir was under pressure to resign. In fact, Ponting and Dua went a step ahead and said it was unprecedented in Indian cricket for a player of his stature to put the team ahead of himself and resign.
And then there was Gambhir's statement: "Absolutely my decision. I was the one who initiated the meeting. I thought I haven't contributed enough. At the same time, the performance of the team. I had to take the responsibility as the leader of the ship. I owe that responsibility. I should. As a leader. I feel it was the right team because we are still very much in the competition. Absolutely my decision [to resign], no pressure from the franchise, they have been absolutely supportive about it. But sometimes when your conscience says it is the right time, and you just take that."
Gambhir was candid enough to admit it gets difficult to turn things around as a player gets older. Released by Daredevils eight years ago, he did turn it around not just for himself but for the entire Kolkata Knight Riders team, winning them two titles. Now, though, he felt he might have been too desperate to repeat it.
"Maybe the only thing I can point to is, I was too desperate to turn things around," Gambhir said. "And at times it can backfire as well because sometimes you are too keen and it makes you too hard on yourself. Sometimes you realise that maybe I just couldn't handle the pressure that came with the position, the responsibility I was given.
"Maybe coming back to Delhi was an emotional decision as well. Sometimes when emotions get better of you and you are too desperate to turn things around, that is the only thing I can think of at the moment. Too early in the tournament to reflect on what went wrong but one thing that came to mind is this. When I joined KKR, I was 28. Now I am 36. That could be one of the reasons. You can handle more pressure when you are 28 than when you are 36."
There is one recent precedent in IPL of a captain resigning mid-tournament, and that came from the man sat next to Gambhir. Ponting had quit as the Mumbai Indians captain when he, and consequently, his team were struggling in 2013.
"I think Gautam deserves a lot of credit for the way he has handled this situation," Ponting said. "It is unheard of in Indian cricket for a senior player to put his hand up and say I don't feel like I am playing well enough. And for the team's sake I am going to stand down. I did it when I was at Mumbai as a player. I knew that I had better players that I was keeping out. I decided to do the right thing.
"It doesn't happen everyday, it might not happen again in Indian cricket or in IPL for someone of his stature, of his talent, of his ability, of his overall record, just to say it is time for a change of direction for this team. I am proud of what he has done. I am sure his younger team-mates are exceptionally proud of the fact that he came out and said that to the team today. And he has created an opportunity for one of India's best young players (Shreyas Iyer) to captain his franchise."
The franchise has been under pressure too, and CEO Dua was asked if he, too, was going to resign. He said he would be happy to resign and let the owners take a call should they fail yet again, and also stringently defended Gambhir.
"I knew these questions were going to come that the franchise has pressurised Gautam," Dua said. "It is his decision. You should respect when somebody takes the decision and give him the due credit. That's the problem with all of us. When somebody takes that decision, respect that. Because this kind of decisions are not taken in India. We totally back and salute Gautam. And I think it is important that the media notes that."
Gambhir took the call after the last Daredevils defeat, chasing a below-par total against Kings XI Punjab at home. "I have always set very high standards for myself as a player, and if I am not able to achieve that, it puts doubt in your mind if you have put enough weight to be in the team. Obviously when I spoke to my wife, she said as a leader you have given opportunities to other players, you have given 14-15 opportunities, why only four to yourself? And my only answer was I have set different standards for myself than I set for other players. Sometimes when you are not able to achieve those standards, you have got to put your hand up and say I was not good enough."