With Sachin Tendulkar ruling himself out of reckoning for the Test captaincy Mahendra Singh Dhoni appears favourite to be given the job but Anil Kumble has emerged as a strong dark horse, in the absence of any other serious contenders for the post.
For long it has been said that Kumble is one of the most intelligent cricketers not to lead India, and for his part Kumble has acknowledged that it would be an honour to lead the team if the job was given to him. "I would certainly do the job if asked to," Kumble told Cricinfo on Wednesday. "I don't know what the big deal is, why so much is being made of this. I have said this before also."
Kumble, as ever, would not be drawn into whether he was in the running for the job or not. "I don't know whether I'm in the race, but if it's offered it would be a great honour," said Kumble. "I have relished it whenever I had the opportunity. But that's not something for me to decide."
Mahendra Singh Dhoni emerges as the strongest candidate to land the job. Experts have warned that it might be early to hand the job to Dhoni who, in his 20 Tests is still establishing himself in this form of the game. There is little doubt over his place in the team, irrespective of the conditions, but Dhoni is some way from achieving the stature the big three have, at least in the longest version of the game.
Niranjan Shah, secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, had said in a release that Tendulkar "was of the view that presently the Indian team was doing extremely well and the board must think of appointing a younger person as the captain, looking at the future of the team."
When the selectors meet in Chandigarh to pick the team for the remainder of the Pakistan ODIs, and most likely name the captain for the Test series as well, they will have a tricky choice to make and not much time to make it in. Without going into the why of Tendulkar's decision it would be fair to say it has left the selectors with a headache, albeit one of their own making.
If Tendulkar was the selectors' first choice, and he had agreed to do the job, then why was the announcement not made? What prompted the selectors to wait till now? Perhaps Tendulkar had asked that the announcement not be made public, and if he did, that would be a good thing for him, for it would have been infinitely more tricky to back down from the job had he been announced as the captain for the coming season.
Until very recently, at least till the Indian team left for Guwahati for the first ODI against Pakistan, Tendulkar had indicated that he would take up the assignment, and the selectors were happy to give him the job not merely for a series or two but for the entire season.
What then happened between then and now to cause Tendulkar to make such an about turn? It's clear that the selectors wanted Tendulkar to take up the post, something that emerged in the media through various board officials and selectors being quoted anonymously, saying that the job was Tendulkar's if he wanted it. After Tendulkar turned down the informal offer of captaincy, Dilip Vengsarkar, the chairman of the selection committee, confirmed to Mid-Day, a Mumbai tabloid, that Tendulkar was indeed the selectors' first choice.
Until Sachin Tendulkar decides to sit down and explain in detail why he chose not to take up the captaincy, the real reasons behind his decision will not emerge. There are many theories doing the rounds, but it would be improper to speculate on which of them was more true. When Rahul Dravid stepped down from the captaincy about two months ago, he did not spell out his reasons in great detail, and has since not given a single major interview explaining himself. With Tendulkar, it is much the same.