The clamour for the axing of MS Dhoni from Test captaincy is growing louder and louder. While enough things have gone wrong for Dhoni to get the axe, it is possible that the BCCI will still persist with him for the upcoming Australia series.
Dhoni has emerged a larger than life figure in Indian cricket and his captaincy career can be divided into two phases: 2007-11 and 2011-14.
Dhoni 1.0 from 2007 to 2011 was easily the greatest captain of his time. He captained India to the T20 and ODI World Cups. He won the ICC No. 1 Rankings in Tests, ODIs and T20s. He did great in home Tests and well in foreign Tests. He won the IPL and Champions League.
He was Midas personified and totally untouchable.
Things started to go wrong for Dhoni 2.0 after he reached the peak of winning the ODI WC. The absolute low point of this phase has been his absolutely abysmal foreign Test record. But if you leave that, then he still has been doing great.
He captained India to the ICC Champions Trophy in 2013 and took India to the finals of the T20 WC the very next year. He also captained India to its first and only 4-0 Test whitewash against Australia.
In home Tests he has a career win-loss record of 22-3, which is among the best in the world. That leaves only foreign Tests. However, while all the TV channels have stripped that particular dismal record and presented that to the viewers, it is not how reviews work.
If the BCCI reviewed Dhoni 2.0, then they would assess his overall Test record from 2011-14. Remember that Mohammed Azharuddin won 14 Tests in the sub-continent and zero outside it. That 0-14 record did not lead to his sacking.He ended up captaining India for a record (at that time) 47 Tests.
That’s because his overall record was 14-14, which was good enough for India. It was rare for an Indian captain not to have lost more matches than he won.
Putting Dhoni through a similar lens, while his overall win-loss record is 27-17, his record from 2011-14 is still a decent 13-14 which is up there with most Indian captains.
You may point to Sourav Ganguly’s 21-13, but that was greatly boosted by Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Ganguly was arguably India’s greatest captain ever, but if you remove the two weak then Ganguly stands at 12-12. Dhoni 2.0 still stands where he is because he hasn’t played with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe during this period.
So when you look at the Top 8 teams, it is Azhar 14-14, Ganguly 12-12 and Dhoni 2.0 13-14! There’s hardly anything to separate them!
It’s like this. If you were a sales head and someone got zero revenue from the southern region, but met all his targets through the northern region, you would take it.
The truth is that the BCCI have enough arguments to persist with Dhoni. To make matters worse, there is the TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor. Right now the only option is Virat Kohli. Kohli is a tremendous ODI and T20 player, but then Dhoni’s ODI and T20 captaincy is not on the line.
Kohli has a Test career batting average of 39.5 which is pretty shaky to step in the shoes of our retired greats. To make matters worse his average in England was an abysmal 13.4. He can still be made Test captain, but maybe the BCCI is not ready to make that risk. They may not want to lose a Test batsman and future captain if he can’t handle the pressure.
Dhoni is not even a specialist batsman but he still made 349 runs versus Kohli’s 134. Kohli is definitely a good option, but he is on shaky ground right now.
There are many other factors. ICC chief Jagmohan Dalmiya, captain Sourav Ganguly and coach John Wright were all comfortable with each other. When one went, the others did too. Captain Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chappell were forming a team, but they went together.
Right now ICC chief N Srinivasan and Dhoni have formed a power duo and it will be difficult to displace them together.
Finally the BCCI is also a very lucrative enterprise and they lean heavily on a mascot or a golden goose that delivers the goods for them. Sachin Tendulkar used to be the one for them and that’s why his career was extended even though his final two years were a virtual washout.
Today that guy is Dhoni who has probably made much more money than Tendulkar and is among the richest sportspersons in the world.
It would be nice for India to get a new coach and new Test captain and bring some freshness to the game and wipe out the humiliation of the last three Tests in England.
But Dhoni is going to have to perform far worse for the BCCI to sack him!
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/