Sachin Tendulkar has stepped down as Mumbai Indians captain ahead of the IPL 2012 season-opener against Chennai. Harbhajan Singh, who was Tendulkar's deputy, has been appointed captain by the franchise after Tendulkar cited needing a "break'' in leadership duties as the reason.

"Sachin Tendulkar, in discussion with the management of Mumbai Indians, has decided to hand over the responsibilities of captaining Mumbai Indians in season five of the IPL to ace offspinner Harbhajan Singh," a media release from the franchise stated.

Tendulkar said that he had discussed the matter with the owners of the franchise before taking the decision. "At this point of time, I feel I need a break from the responsibility of captaincy of the Mumbai Indians," Tendulkar was quoted as saying in the release. "After due consideration, I discussed my intention to hand over the captaincy of the team to Harbhajan Singh, with Mukeshbhai [Ambani] and Nitabhabhi."

In the four years Tendulkar was at helm, the best result Mumbai achieved was in the 2010 edition of the tournament, when they finished as runners-up to Chennai Super Kings.

Harbhajan, who led Mumbai to the Champions League T20 title last year, was the automatic choice to take over the leadership mantle. Incidentally, Tendulkar sat on the bench through that victorious campaign, as he was recuperating from a toe injury he picked up during the England tour last August.

Though Harbhajan's bowling form has been patchy, he has found success as a captain. After leading Mumbai Indians to the Champions League title, he led the India Green team in the Challenger Trophy, top-scoring for his side in the tied final and picking up 3 for 37. Recently, he led Punjab Twenty20 side to the final of Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy, which they lost to Baroda.