As Ravichandran Ashwin’s full and straight delivery went past James Pattinson’s tentative bat and thudded into the pads, Mahendra Singh Dhoni became the most successful Indian captain in Test cricket.
The record took close to half a decade and 45 Tests to arrive. In spite of the crushing setbacks of the past couple of years, the landmark has been achieved with the best win-loss ratio among all Indian captains who have led in five or more Test matches.
Characteristically, the Indian captain underplayed the importance of the milestone. But it does not make it any less significant.
It is quite an achievement for someone harnessed with a team in transition for quite some time now. For all those who harped about Dhoni capitalising on a team built by others, it must be pointed out that for the last couple of years he has had to deal with the constant bother of retirement, aging stars, run-less opening batsmen and unproductive bowlers. If he had started his reign on a crest, he has been thoroughly tested by the trough, and he has indeed come out with flying colours.
What makes Dhoni’s achievements even more incredible is that only one of the 22 wins under his leadership have come against a minnow. He has never led against Zimbabwe and only once against Bangladesh.
In contrast, Sourav Ganguly, the previous holder of the record, led 11 of his 49 Test matches against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, and was indebted to them for as many as nine of the victories.
|Indian captains||T||W||L||W-L Ratio|
If we discard the minnows from the equation — removing Zimbabwe and Bangladesh for all captains and Sri Lanka for Sunil Gavaskar’s period — Dhoni’s record loses little sheen, while the same cannot be said for all.
| Indian captains |
against major sides
While the recent reverses in England and Australia are still fresh in our memories, we often tend to forget that Dhoni is one of the few Indian skippers to have led the side to overseas series wins twice. Only Ajit Wadekar and Rahul Dravid have managed this feat before him.
India’s overseas series wins (other than in Zimbabwe and Bangladesh)
|MAK Pataudi||1967-68||New Zealand|
|Ajit Wadekar||1970-71||West Indies|
|M Azharuddin||1993||Sri Lanka|
| Rahul Dravid (2 Tests) + |
Sourav Ganguly (1 Test)
|Rahul Dravid||2006||West Indies|
|MS Dhoni||2008-09||New Zealand|
|MS Dhoni||2011||West Indies|
While the long-serving captains in Indian cricket has been predominantly batsmen, MS Dhoni manages to hold his own against them with the willow — in spite of his additional role of a wicketkeeper. His batting record as a captain is exceptional, behind only Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar. Surprisingly, he has a better batting average as a skipper than Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Azharuddin.
| Batting performance |
The success in Test cricket is accompanied by a fantastic record in the One-Day Internationals (ODIs) as well. Having led India to the World Cup triumph in 2011, he still has some distance to cover to overtake Mohammad Azharuddin as the most successful captain in ODIs. But, even here Dhoni has a win-loss ratio way ahead of the others.
|Indian ODI captains||M||W||L||Win-Loss Ratio|
As in Test cricket, Dhoni’s record remains impressive even when we take the minnows out of the equation. In fact, once minnows (Zimbabwe and Bangladesh for modern skippers and Sri Lanka for Kapil Dev) are removed, only MS Dhoni and Rahul Dravid end up with more wins than losses.
|ODI’s against Major sides||M||W||L||Win-Loss Ratio|
Where Dhoni still has some miles to go is in the race for number of tournament wins. The World Cup was indeed a glorious feather in his cap, but if we consider all tournaments featuring three or more sides, Azharuddin is quite some distance ahead.
ODI Tournament wins of India
|Captains|| Number |
|M Azharuddin||9||Asia Cup||1991|
|Wills World Series||1994|
|MS Dhoni||4||CB Series||2008|
|SM Gavaskar||1||Benson Hedges||1985|
|RJ Shastri||1||Sharjah Cup||1988|
|DB Vengsarkar||1||Asia Cup||1988|
|SR Tendulkar||1||Titan Cup||1996|
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)