MS Dhoni’s decision to quit Tests a gross betrayal to Indian cricket
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Without dilly-dallying about Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s illustrious Test career (he is India’s most successful Test captain after all), I prefer to get straight to the point. Dhoni, simply put, should not have retired from Test cricket all of a sudden, without any prior notice. It is hard for me to understand why the media are turning this sudden and unexpected decision by the supposed ‘Captain Cool’ as a courageous move. It feels like a betrayal to the team.
Firstly, deserting the team in the middle of the series in Australia, which has already become a lost cause, portrays Dhoni in a bad light with the perception being that he had had enough of the repeated overseas losses that the team endured under his leadership. Consequently, the Australians are bound to feel some sort of superiority over their counterparts. After all, it was during the Ashes series in Australia that England batsman Jonathan Trott decided to return back home citing a stress-related illness.
It was also mid-way through the very same series against Australia that Graeme Swann, one of England’s greatest ever spinners, decided quit all forms of cricket. Suddenly, Australia appear to be this scary force in Test Cricket who not only defeat their opponents, but also make them quit. With this mindset and on the back of a 2-0 lead with just one Test left, Australia will be more than confident going into the fourth Test. It will be hard to stand up against a team with such motivation and confidence for any opposition on any given day.
Indian cricket not prepared for such a decision
The second reason why this decision by Dhoni is a betrayal is because he never told anyone in advance about it. Okay, whatever, this is Dhoni’s ‘style’ or this is how he ‘likes to do things’. But this decision does not only affect him but the entire team. Cricket is a team sport and one cannot, especially the captain of the team, be taking this decision without preparing his team for it.
Now, the responsibility of carrying the team forward lies with Virat Kohli, who is undoubtedly confident about his abilities as a captain. Yet the fact that India have already lost the series is surely going to play on his mind. If Dhoni was so intent on focusing on the shorter formats and if his body wasn’t able to cope anymore with the rigorous demands of Test Cricket, he could have as well quit before the series started.
Moreover, Dhoni’s constant presence has meant that other wicketkeepers in the country have been deprived of playing opportunities at the highest level. To now thrust with them the responsibility and expect to match up to the standards set by Dhoni would be grossly unfair on them. A few players like Parthiv Patel, Dinesh Karthik and Wriddhiman Saha have got a few opportunities here and there when Dhoni has got injured, but no one has been given enough chances to show any merit or learn much.
Was Dhoni feeling irrelevant?
We can all extensively speculate as to why Dhoni decided to quit Test cricket at this juncture. Some could argue he felt responsible for India’s abysmal performances in Test Cricket since 2011 while some could point out that he saw Virat Kohli as the future after his aggressive captaincy in the first Test at Adelaide.
Newspapers have also hinted at the fact that the new forming friendship between Kohli and team director Ravi Shastri, who is gradually sidelining coach Duncan Fletcher, was causing Dhoni to lose his relevance as the team’s captain. Shastri’s incessant involvement in the team’s managerial decisions was affecting Dhoni’s mindset, the news reports have stated.
But none of these speculations remotely question Dhoni’s spot in the team. All they argue is his deteriorating relevance as the captain of the Indian team. So is the fear of losing the captaincy too vast that without it, Dhoni would leave the team? This appears like a childhood tantrum: Make me the captain or I quit. And so he did.
All the big players starting from Ricky Ponting to Sourav Ganguly, from Sachin Tendulkar to Brian Lara, have played for the team even after the coveted role of captaincy was taken away from them. But apparently, Dhoni’s ego is too big for him to play under someone else. At least, it appears that way.
Let us hope that questions are not raised on Dhoni’s captaincy during the upcoming World Cup. Or else, ‘Captain Cool’ might once again desert us in the middle of the tournament.