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MS Dhoni’s overseas Test captaincy record conundrum

MS Dhoni is India' most successful captain on several counts © IANS
MS Dhoni is India’ most successful captain on several statistical counts © IANS



MS Dhoni’s overseas Test record has been a patch in his phenomenal career as the captain of India. Abhijit Banare explains a possible reason for the relatively poor record.


There’s absolutely no doubt that Mahendra Singh Dhoni has his own unique style of captaincy and is inching closer to statistically being the most successful Indian captain in terms of victories. When one happens to be among the finest, critics always tend to pin out at least one little flaw out of  all those glittering achievements. Dhoni has been an excellent leader; he has performed under enormous pressure situations, led India to some historic wins including the 2011 World Cup. But after the One-Day International (ODI) series loss in South Africa, his lack of success  in overseas matches as a captain is being pointed out by his critics.



























The above table shows that the argument has to be further narrowed down to Dhoni’s record in Test matches. In ODIs,  his record as a captain is formidable. Moreover, he averages 55.19 which is more than his career average of 52.88. However,  the same can’t be said about his Test match record. His last overseas Test win came at Kingston, Jamaica in June 2011 where India beat the West Indies. The next two overseas tours of England and Australia were a nightmare for Dhoni as a captain with seven losses in a row. Before these losses, Dhoni’s numbers looked good with 12 matches, five wins, two losses, and five draws.


In ODIs, Dhoni has been a pillar in the Indian batting line-up. But when it comes to Test cricket, the right-handed batsman is certainly not a reliable force. He averages 33.34, lower than his overall 39.39 (which is still less compared to his exploits in limited overs format). In his column for Economic Times, cricket historian, Boria Majumdar  rightly pointed out about the lack of those special knocks — which could be termed as a ‘captain’s innings’ from Dhoni. On the other hand, Sourav Ganguly has those special knocks to his credit, apart from better overseas results, which makes him a better captain on an overseas tour.


However, if India has to win overseas, it is not a sole responsibility of a Dhoni or a Ganguly to pull the team through. It all depends on what kind of a team is there around them. It must be considered that the presence of greats like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman made a huge difference. All the five away victories under Dhoni’s captaincy so far have come in the presence of these three batsmen. However, it’s not their mere presence, but also the impact they’ve had on these victories. In Dhoni’s first overseas Test win, Tendulkar scored 160 against New Zealand in Hamilton in 2009. Dhoni’s second overseas Test win was against Bangladesh in Dhaka in January 2010, wherein both Tendulkar and Dravid scored centuries. On a much tougher pitch at Durban and opposition, in India’s Test win against South Africa during the 2010-11 tour, Laxman played a crucial knock of 96 to set up a memorable win.


Even Ganguly’s all 11 overseas wins came in the presence of Dravid, Laxman and Tendulkar.


Below is a table with Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman under the two captains away from home







Sourav Ganguly





MS Dhoni






At the end of the day, it is not just Dhoni but the team that is picked matters as well. The ‘Captain Cool’, though, will be well aware about his batting record in away matches. In ODIs, the Indian team was already in the process of rebuilding since 2007 World Twenty20 (T20) win and a new set of youngsters had already shown their potential. However, Test cricket is a completely different challenge. Dhoni’s records from hereon will also depend on how well the new set of batsmen and bowlers perform, apart from his own performance.


Despite all the minus points about Dhoni’s overseas records in Tests, no one can take away the fact that he is India’s most successful captain on several statistical counts as this article by CricketCountry’s chief cricket writer and historian Arunabha Sengupta elaborates.


All figures noted after the second One-Day International between India and South Africa on December 11, 2013.


(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)


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