AFTER 90 Tests, Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has called it a day as a Test cricketer.
He will continue to lead India in the one-day and T20 formats, with a one-day World Cup around the corner in 2015.
Dhoni was not a great captain but he had limited resources at his disposal. To win a Test, one has to take 20 wickets and having batsmen who can pile up the runs is simply not enough. The West Indies, during their incredible run of 15 years without the loss of a Test series, were often bailed out by their bowlers — and boy, did they have some bowlers! — when the batting failed. Yes, even the powerful batting line-ups of the Windies did fail on occasion.
Dhoni had to live within his means. And he did a fairly decent job. He was on the front foot in situations in India when the spin resources of the team meant he had bowlers who could strike. Abroad, he was like a pauper on Oxfod Street – India has won a Test here or there in the last three years when on tour.
One of the great finishers in one-day and T20 cricket, Dhoni seemed a detached character at the best of times. He often seemed to let the game drift, not trying to influence proceedings. But one thing he did well was to deal with the crazy fans in India who loved him and hated him with equal vigour.
Dhoni will be remembered for his double-hundred against Australia in 2013, when he took the bowlers to the cleaners and ensured India would dominate. The hosts whitewashed Australia 4-0.
He will also be remembered for leading the Indian team at a time when it had a number of big names — Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman and Virender Sehwag — two of whom had been former captains, and doing so without any ructions. He spoke little and was very careful in his dealings with the media, though in his early days he did tend to wax somewhat voluble.
His successor, Virat Kohli, is cut from a different cloth: aggressive, highly talented and driven to win. They are just eight years apart but are totally different in their approaches. Whether Kohli learns to moderate his youthful instincts when he is leading remains to be seen. His first effort, in Adelaide against Australia, wasn’t too bad but he knew it was a one-off. Leading India on a day-to-day basis is a different cup of tea.