Dhoni has definitely proved himself as a captain in at home matches, especially in the shorter format of the game. However, with a very poor test captaincy record, is he the right choice to lead the team into 2014?

Mahendra Singh Dhoni led India to its greatest cricketing triumph of the new millennium when the national team won the World Cup on April 2nd 2011 and fittingly it was him who hit a towering six at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai to win the game for India. At that point Dhoni was being hailed as the greatest captain ever and rightly so, since his record in limited overs cricket is simply amazing considering the fact that he has won every tournament that there is in that format of the game. However, a doubt has always been there about his credentials as a Test match captain, due to his apparently defensive tactics and the tendency to let the game drift when the game hangs in the balance. A case in point being the second Test against South Africa when after being bundled out (India were181/1 at the end of first day) for 334 in the first innings, India clawed back into the game and reduced South Africa to 298/5. The 5th wicket of Duminy fell in the 104th over and even though Dhoni had selected three specialist fast bowlers in the team, he did not feel the need to take the new ball since he apparently felt that South Africa could be beaten by spin.

Dhoni india australia match1 Is Dhoni the Right Man to Lead India in Test Cricket?

The plan backfired badly as Dale Steyn and a well set Jacques Kallis ground India into the dust as the captain operated with Ravindra Jadeja in tandem with Rohit Sharma at certain points, while the fast bowlers had to make do with ball that had turned into a round rag. Eventually the new ball was taken in the 146th over by which time the match was well beyond India’s reach. This is not the only instance in which Dhoni stuck to his now famous instincts with a dogged determination and ended up harming India’s chances of a well deserved draw or perhaps, even a win in a Test match.

However, if anyone is under the impression that the selectors have taken kindly to his performances over the past 3 years should reconsider their views since after India had been thumped 4-0 twice in four Test series in England and Australia, there were murmurs of simmering discontent among the selectors. Azharuddin and Tendulkar had been sacked for relatively better records in another era of Indian cricket but there was an apparent campaign in certain quarters that there were no eligible candidates to take over the captaincy. Never mind, Dhoni himself had been appointed captain out of nowhere back in 2007 when Sehwag and Gambhir were the genuine contenders for the hot seat.

The lowest point in his tenure so far was the 2-1 defeat at home to England in the 4 Test series in the winter of 2012 when Dhoni insisted on square turners but ironically the team ended up getting bamboozled by the English due of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar. That is when the calls for sacking him first came into light although Dhoni himself maintained that he did not want to give up and wanted to face the challenge. Now, in this regard it must be said that only someone who is absolutely sure about his position at the top even after those back breaking defeats would have the gall to say that he merely wants to stay on in order to face the challenges that comes with captaincy.

Former Indian great and sacked (for apparently leading the chorus to sack Dhoni) national selector, Mohinder Amarnath had this to say regarding that stormy period. “Definitely, there were discussions to replace Dhoni and people were agreeing to do so but for some internal reason, it didn’t happen. I will not like to divulge what the reasons were. (Sic) But when the time is right, I will let the people of this country know about the reasons.”

He went on to add, “In Indian politics and cricket, it’s always the same. There are people who are controlling the game and other people are scared to take a stand.I believe that Dhoni should be removed as captain from the Tests. He hasn’t set the Test stage on fire. A captain’s place in the team should be secure and I don’t see his place secured in the side. He doesn’t have the technique for Test cricket.” As a matter of fact, the sacking of Amarnath by the Board President and M. S Dhoni’s employer at India Cements N. Srinivasan is directly related to his stance against Dhoni’s captaincy. In a separate interview he stated that the selectors had made their mind up about sacking him from the Test captaincy but Mr. Srinivasan clamped down on any such development.

A 4-0 defeat of a hapless Australian side seemed to cheer up the Indian cricket fraternity but these victories count for little when India goes abroad and loses in a humiliating manner without even putting up a fight. The South Africa series was a pleasant surprise but even that series could have ended 2-0 against India had the home team shown some adventure in their quest for the huge target in the first Test, when the finishing line was well within their sights. He is now statistically the most successful Indian captain but the fact that he reached that milestone during that hastily conjured up series against the West Indies in November is almost symbolic of how hollow that achievement actually is.

Captaincy Record in Test Matches

Venue

Span

Matches

Won

Lost

Tied

Draw

 Home 2008–2013 30 21 3 0 6
 Away 2009–2013 21 5 10 0 6
TOTAL 2008–2013 51 26 13 0 11

He has recorded 26 wins so far but among them 21 wins are at home as compared to Ganguly, whose record he broke, has a far more balanced record. A win percentage of 23% away from home is simply not good enough and to put that into perspective, Dhoni’s record on foreign soil is better than only Darren Sammy of the West Indies, a team which nowadays struggles to win even at home. The table below clearly shows Dhoni’s abysmal away record in comparison to the other Test captains in world cricket during the same time period, which is between 2009 and 2013. Dhoni languishes at the bottom of that table and his heavily lop sided win record gets exposed quite cruelly.

msd Is Dhoni the Right Man to Lead India in Test Cricket?

Now, a captain is expected to win at home but to have an away record of such shocking percentages certainly raises the questions whether he is the right man for the job, not to speak of the seemingly unfathomable tactics that he employs at certain junctures of a Test match. In 2014, India is supposed to play 12 Tests away from home starting with the two Test series in windy New Zealand, followed by tours to England and Australia. If Dhoni stays as the Test captain, then 2014 is his proverbial trial by fire after the reversals in 2011-12. However, Dhoni had once hinted that he would stop playing in one of the formats of the game going into 2015 and hopefully for the good of India’s place in Test cricket, he makes the right decision and stops playing Test cricket.

By Soham Samaddar

Also See:
A Century On Test Debut Is Not What It Used To Be
The Career of Dinesh Karthik

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