For a moment, let’s just all move away from the hype of India’s massive Test win at Hyderabad, a commendable feat no doubt and, incidentally, one that made skipper MS Dhoni’s India’s most ‘successful’ Test captain, an achievement worth lauding. At the same time, the figures must be put into perspective, and effusive praise should not be heaped on Dhoni over the achievement. As the captain himself admitted after the match, the whole issue of him being India’s most successful captain has been unnecessarily hyped. The candid comment came because deep inside Dhoni knows that he isn’t the best captain ever to have led India.
Overall, under Dhoni, India have won 22 out of 45 Tests, which is an excellent statistic at first look. But it is difficult to forget that he was also the helm when India lost seven of the eight Tests in England and Australia -- Sehwag led in one Test during the series in Australia. These were the two tours that were to examine India’s billing as one of the best Test sides in the world. In fact, they went to England as the number one side in the world, only to come back empty-handed. It did not help Dhoni’s cause that he looked totally out of sorts with the bat in both the high-profile series’, and when it came to making captain decisions he was totally at sea, both on and off the field.
The best Test captain of a country is one who has led the side to memorable wins in both home and away conditions. In that aspect, Dhoni still has a long way to go. Among the top teams away from home, India have tasted success under Dhoni once each in New Zealand and South Africa. His other away wins have come in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and West Indies. This means 17 of Dhoni’s 22 Test wins as skipper have come in the comfort of home conditions. While this is an expected figure, if he indeed wants to be remembered as a great captain, he must win more matches as leader abroad. The thing in Dhoni’s favour is that he has time on his hands.
In terms of winning big Tests away from, there are a few others who are ahead of Dhoni even though they haven’t tasted the kind of success Dhoni has overall. Sourav Ganguly led India to Test wins in England and Australia against strong teams. He was also at the helm when India won against a top-class Pakistan side. Dravid also led India to Test wins in England and South Africa apart from Pakistan. Further, under Tiger Pataudi, India won three Tests in New Zealand at a time when a draw was considered a win for the Indians.
Dwelling even further, under Bishen Singh Bedi, India tasted Test wins in Australia twice and even the mighty West Indies once. Ajit Wadekar led India to Test triumphs in West Indies and England, at a time when the opponents were at their peak. Last but not the least, the legendary Sunil Gavaskar’s two away wins came in New Zealand and Australia while great Kapil Dev led India to a 2-0 series triumph in England in 1986.
Before placing the crown of the ‘greatest’ on Dhoni, these figures must be taken into consideration.
--By A Cricket Analyst