So India's MS Dhoni in a surprising move has retired from Test cricket. He is just 33 and the retirement zone for Test cricketers is usually in the age group of 35-40. He definitely had a few more years left in him.
Dhoni played just 90 Tests and didn't even hang around to make the landmark 100 which many people aspire. He also has made 4876 runs and didn't even wait to make 5000. He averaged 38, which is pretty impressive for a No. 7.
So Dhoni could well have been India's greatest No. 7 Test batsman. Now that has come to an abrupt end. His Test double century against Australia in 2013 set the stage for the whitewash that followed. Dhoni was an attacking Test batsman who never realized his full potential.
Dhoni is India's most successful Test wicket-keeper ever with 256 catches and 38 stumpings bringing the total to 294, falling short of yet another landmark. Dhoni clearly has no interest in landmarks and records when it comes to Test cricket. Dhoni finishes as fifth in the all-time list of most Test dismissals.
However as a Test captain, Dhoni has been statistically the greatest ever. He has led India to a whopping 60 matches and won 27 of them. At home, Dhoni has a staggering record. His win-loss ratio of 21-3 means there is no close second to him. Dhoni has won his last six Tests on the trot.
He has received flak for his overseas performance, but interestingly he has a lot of success stories there too. He is tied with Sourav Ganguly for most foreign Test wins against the Top 8 teams with 5 each. (Ganguly had 3 wins each in Bangladesh and Zimbabwe and that severely boosted his foreign Test record)
Interestingly, India has lost all the Test series held on South African soil save one. That one was captained by Dhoni in when the series in 2010-11 was tied at 1-1. At that time we lost the ODI series 2-3 and that was the closest one as we usually get thrashed.
In fact Dhoni is the only captain who has won any series/tournament on South African soil when he won the T20 World Cup in 2007. (That's not counting one-off international T20s). Dhoni is also the only second captain to win a Test series in New Zealand. We won in 1968 and then again only in 2009.
Dhoni also became the third Test captain to win a Test series in West Indies in 2011. So when it comes to foreign Tests, it was not all doom and gloom. He will always be remembered as the first Test captain to take India to the ICC No. 1 rankings. It may be remembered that Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble struggled to take India to even the No. 2 position.
Of course there is no doubt that Dhoni was over-burdened. Captain + Batsman + Wicket-keeper in Tests + ODIs + international T20s + IPL is a burden that has arguably not been seen by any cricketer in its history.
From 2007-08 to 2014, Dhoni sure has carried some workload. All the intense criticism about his Test captaincy seems to have finally taken a toll. But one wonders why Dhoni didn't step down as Test captain first and continue for 1-2 more years as a wicket-keeper before totally calling it quits. That would have helped him notch up a few landmarks and achieve a few more Test landmarks too.
India have just finished the third Test of the Australia series. We will be left high and dry for the fourth Test. When it comes to Test cricket, we have another abrupt end. Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh and now Dhoni. None of these great players have got a proper farewell in Tests.
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/