KOLKATA: In a country of 1.22 billion people, the captain of the Indian cricket team arguably holds the second-most important job after the Prime Minister.

With just about everyone having an opinion on all things cricket, it is tough for any captain to measure up to the expectations at the best of times. But when times are bad, the crown of thorns begins to bite.

Ask Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who is feeling the heat after a humiliating home series loss to England.

As the clamour for Dhoni’s head gets louder, former India captain Sourav Ganguly called for a more rational approach to address the issue of leadership. “In my opinion, there is too much workload on Dhoni and it is affecting his cricket.

Apart from leading the side in all three formats of the game, he also shoulders the responsibility of keeping wickets and making runs. Keeping in mind his immense contribution to Indian cricket, the selectors need to find a way to manage Dhoni’s workload.

Otherwise, I am afraid that we may lose him as a batsman. India can ill-afford to do that,” Sourav told Times of India.

Sourav has a point. Only nine wicketkeepers have captained their country in 10 or more Test matches with West Indies’ Gerry Alexander (18 Tests) second only to Dhoni in this respect.

Since his international debut in 2004-05, Dhoni has led India in 43 Tests, 127 ODIs and 37 T20 Internationals.

One of India’s most successful captains in both formats of the game, Sourav reckons it is time to split the captaincy to reduce the pressure on Dhoni.

“It is tough on Dhoni with so much cricket being played these days, including a taxing IPL in the middle of the year,” observed Sourav.

“After the ODI series against Pakistan, the selectors should consult Dhoni on his preferred format and give him the job, handing over the other half to someone else,” he opined.

Will split captaincy work in the Indian context? “I think we will benefit from it and this is the right time,” Sourav contended. Asked whether Dhoni would merit a place in the Test side on his batting alone, Sourav said, “Of course, he does.

He is too good a batsman as he showed us in the Nagpur Test. His knock of 99 was worth more than a hundred. It is the best I have seen him play in Test matches.”

Dhoni himself had hinted during India’s disastrous tour of Australia earlier this year that he would a take a call on which format to give up if he is to lead India in the 2015 World Cup.

Sourav has always backed Dhoni’s credentials in the shorter formats of the game. “He is a fantastic One-day player. One of the very best, as his record shows.

As new faces break into the XI, Dhoni’s experience will be vital in terms of guiding the youngsters,” Sourav added.