Departing with a mixed legacy

The timing of >Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s retirement from Test cricket is consistent with his earlier choices as a cricketer and a team leader. Despite his cult following and camera-friendly smile, Dhoni was always a private sort of person who kept major decisions under wraps until the last minute. In the event, the fact that he chose to call it a day in Tests when everybody is asking why rather than why not, is not at all surprising. But he might have better served the cause of Indian cricket had he completed the series — the fourth Test against Australia begins on January 6 in Sydney — before handing over the reins to Virat Kohli. Perhaps he wanted to leave quietly, without fanfare. Through much of India’s successful run, whether in Tests or limited overs cricket, the man who emerged from Indian cricket’s backwaters in Jharkhand has had no qualms about letting others take centre stage. This was never more obvious than when he allowed Sachin Tendulkar to hog the limelight after winning the World Cup at home in 2011. Dhoni, for the most part, has preferred to remain in the background. This is in stark contrast to his style of play on the field — something that is at once flamboyant and awe-inspiring when he is at his best. Some of the big shots with which he brings the spectators to their feet — including his patented ‘helicopter’ shot — are more readily associated with an extroverted personality.

Also read: >Mahendra Singh Dhoni: A timeline

Read: >All you need to know about Dhoni

For all his success in the longer form of the game, especially at home, Dhoni’s image was overwhelmingly shaped through his exploits in limited overs cricket. Yet, his 90 Tests, 4,876 runs, 256 catches and 38 stumpings prove that he could shine in the longer version too. His 224 against Australia at Chennai in 2013 altered the series. Earlier this year, when the rest of the batting, barring Murali Vijay, struggled in England, Dhoni scored 349 runs with four 50s. The numbers state that he was India’s most successful captain, but that record of 27 wins and 18 losses from 60 Tests hides a disturbing statistic — his men lost 15 away games, most of them in the last three years. His failure to rouse an outfit suffering the pangs of transition, his refusal to speak when the squad he led in the Indian Premier League, Chennai Super Kings, was mired in controversy, or even his questionable sense of humour — as evident in him talking about Virat Kohli stabbing Shikhar Dhawan — are all blips that are part of a complicated personality. India will miss him in Tests, but thankfully he is still available in an arena in which he excels — the pulse-pounding abridged contest under lights. His ultimate test will come in a few weeks’ time when India begins its defence of the World Cup in challenging conditions.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 3:45:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-on-mahendra-singh-dhonis-test-retirement/article6742588.ece

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