Cricket

An instinctive player who charted his own course

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, retired from Test Cricket on Tuesday. File Photo  

In choosing to walk away from Test cricket on his own terms, M.S. Dhoni has acted as M.S. Dhoni would!

Not the best of captains in the longer version of the game, he chose to leave a mark by retiring midway through the series on an overseas tour. When many would have loved to play another 10 Tests and attain a century of matches, Dhoni has passed on the mantle to Virat Kohli in a decision that clearly reflects his mindset — instinctive.

Recommended to the job by Sachin Tendulkar, and initially identified as the man for the future by Greg Chappell, this exciting batsman-keeper dominated the cricket field in his inimitable style. As a captain, he led by instinct. Quite like Kapil Dev.

Rustic in his batsmanship — the helicopter shot, whip off the pads or the swing far away from his body — he defied the coaching manual. He was not a graceful artist. He had his own way to counter the seam and swing in England, the bounce in South Africa, and the spin in the sub-continent.

Many times, he defied logic too. But, like a true leader, though defensive in the longer version of the game, Dhoni owned up the failures, backed his mates to the hilt and gave a new direction to Indian cricket.

Dhoni had his favourites, his weak and strong points. Who doesn’t? Sourav Ganguly broke the trend by giving a platform to the deserving and Dhoni encouraged players from unsung backgrounds.

Dhoni had a dismal record in Test cricket overseas, despite the presence of some legends. In accepting his failure to inspire the team, he has only underlined his characteristic reading of the situation. It was time to move on. Just as it was time to break in 10 years ago in a manner that reminded old timers of Dilip Vengsarkar, who blazed his way into the Indian team with a sensational assault in an Irani Cup match.

Many years later, it was the Vengsarkar-headed selection committee that decided to appoint him as India captain. “I was impressed with his body language, positive attitude and cricketing intelligence. And when Sachin and Rahul (Dravid) agreed, it strengthened my belief. But I thought he could have continued for one more year. He was still fit, ” said Vengsarkar.

Dhoni’s decision, that may have pre-empted his critics from drawing the knives out, could have also been prompted by a nagging back injury that was clearly hampering his on-field movement in all forms of the game.

His critics may believe he has deserted a sinking ship. He has also been accused of easing out the seniors from the squad, denying some deserving players and rooting for some mediocre players. But his fans would appreciate the fact that he did not chase records.

Dhoni certainly can be a case study for blazing like a meteor and picking the sunset of his Test career. Both on his terms!

>Timeline

  • December 2, 2005: Debut against Sri Lanka in Chennai. Makes 30 off 54 balls
  • December 12, 2005: Scores his first Test fifty at the Feroz Shah Kotla in New Delhi.
  • January 26, 2006: With India in trouble at 281 for five, in reply to Pakistan's 588, Dhoni smashes 148 to help his team post 603. The Test is drawn.
  • July 23, 2007: Helps draw a Test at Lord's with an unbeatent patient 76.
  • April 11, 2008: Leads in a Test for the first time in Anil Kumble's absence. India beats South Africa inside three days at Kanpur.
  • August 22, 2011: India loses No.1 ranking after suffering a 4-0 whitewash against England.
  • January 2012: Suffers another 4-0 whitewash, this time in Australia.
  • December 17, 2013: A rare failure at home as England wins the four Test series 2-1. India's first home Test series loss in 28 years.
  • February 24, 2013: Hits a rollicking 224 against Australia in Chennai. It is the highest score by an wicketkeeper-captain and the best by an Indian keeper.
  • March 5, 2013: Dhoni becomes India's most successful captain with 22 wins. An innings and 135 run win over Australia in Hyderabad takes hm past Sourav Ganguly's record of 21.
  • March 24, 2013: Oversees India's first Test series whitewash over Australia.
  • December 30, 2013: A third consecutive overseas Test series loss as India goes down 1-0 in South Africa.
  • February 2014: Fourth straight overseas defeat in New Zealand.
  • July 21, 2014: India wins at Lord's for the first time in 28 years.
  • August 17, 2014: A three-day defeat at The Oval against England, a fifth straight away loss.
  • December 30, 2014: Shortly after India loses its sixth consecutive overseas Test series, Dhoni announces his retirement from Test cricket. Dhoni announces his retirement from Test cricket.



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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 3:45:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/An-instinctive-player-who-charted-his-own-course/article10965645.ece

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