MS Dhoni and the will to be in India’s best eleven

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Back in whites

The normal reaction when one of cricket’s biggest stars retires from Tests is a kind of pained collective whine, mourning their departure. Never again will we get to see them do all those things that we’ve only just realised we took for granted. But MS Dhoni is different. Everyone – even his fans – is just sort of saying: ‘Yeah, that makes sense’.

People can be a bit black and white about these sorts of things saying that Dhoni never liked the longest format. That’s rubbish. He played 90 Tests and you don’t do that unless you give at least half a toss. It probably is true that Test cricket is his least favourite format however – and as is the case for all top cricketers, something eventually has to give.

Once upon a time, you could afford to give your all in even your least favourite format, but with today’s fixture lists, enthusiasm has to be rationed; carefully apportioned where it will have the most impact. Does anyone want to see MS cruising through big matches? It’s not hugely satsifactory, but the truth is it’s probably better to replace him with a lesser, but more ravenous player.

It shouldn’t come to that really. Ideally there would be little enough cricket that the top players would be completely full-on in every match in every format. But at present that’s simply unrealistic. Everyday cricket every day is what we’ve found ourselves with.

Some countries have more of their best players retiring early from Tests to prolong their short format careers; other countries will see their best players retiring early from one-dayers to prolong their Test careers. All else being equal, this difference is enough to determine who wins at what. International cricket as one country’s true best eleven versus the best eleven players the opposition can possibly muster is a rare thing indeed. Perhaps we never truly see it any more.


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  1. Oh come on. You have seen Dhoni in home test matches: energetic, in control, and dare I say positive. He is simply out of his depth in tests abroad, both as batsman and as captain. Never ascribe to lack of motivation what can adequately be explained by incompetence.

    1. Why do people always say he can’t bat overseas? He’s frequently been excellent in Tests in England.

      Also, we were trying to emphasise that it wasn’t lack of motivation; it was only a relative lack of motivation. This is where everything gets out of whack.

    2. I think I know why people say he “can’t bat overseas”. According to Cricinfo:

      Home – 2380 runs @ 45.76
      Away – 2496 runs @ 32.84

      Those away figures include a single century (a 148 against Pakistan in 2006), in contrast to the 5 he scored in India, including 224 against Australia last year (2013, I’m writing this in 2014, just).

      However, as our Monarch notes, he did make a number of good scores in England, often when the rest of the Indian batsmen struggled.

      I take the point about motivation being relative, though, there’s no question that no-one plays 90 Tests without being committed to Test cricket.

    3. Dhoni is hardly the only Indian test batsman to show a home and away differential of that kind.

      I wonder what even Sunny and Sachin’s home and away differentials look like – let alone home boys like Virender. Rahul was a famously good traveller, of course…

    1. No one wants to hear what you have to say about 33 years olds, Sam. Everyone thinks you’re a spoiled brat who should’ve been spanked regularly as a child.

    2. Probably doesn’t come across as neither, sorry. I am 33, and the “spoiled brat” was a Virat Kohli reference. All very convoluted, I know.

    3. Ged sachin avg 54 abroad compared to 53 at home. Sunny I dunno but he scored 9 test hundeds in wi at that time. He is that good.I think people should first know the facts before making statements. There is a feeling among non indians that rahul does well oversesas which he does rightly, but so is sachin his overseas avg better than dravids.
      And what is ian bells , trotts, clarkes,warners, avg on subcontinent??? Or should we not ask coz its only asian bats who have to proove themselves overseseas??? I always wondered why overseas avg shown only against asian bats n nobody talks abt aus n eng subcontinental avg. If am wrong pls correct me here. AndFYI sehwag has a test 2 test 100 in aus, 1 in eng, 1 in sa, 1 in wi and 1 in nz.
      My first time here so bear with me

  2. I suppose his average of 37 in England is twice as good as his average in Australia. In 48 overseas tests he has scored one century.

  3. I think Dhoni should have done better batting-wise. Disappointing. He was able to get over whatever technical limitations he had and score runs every now and then, and I think he could have done it more often… just didn’t. Not trying hard enough? Dunno. Why is Tamim Iqbal not scoring more? Why was McCullum so disappointing up till a year or two ago? Why is Bell not a more successful batsman? Whatever it is, I think Dhoni’s batting is sort of the same. Should have had more runs and more centuries, overseas too.

  4. The downside of all this is that Kohli is being given the reigns, and he is, well, a bit of a pillock.

    1. And Shastri as the team director behind the scenes. Kohli being a pillock put into words by the Shastribot. Get used to the phrase “young turks”. Im going to go kill myself.

    2. …with a tracer bullet, by any chance, Uday?

      Hey, don’t do it, cheer up. It might not be pretty, but some of it is bound to be funny.

      I was particularly impressed the other morning (evening for upside-down oz readers) when Kohli snarled as he celebrated his 150 and then looked quite chuffed as he strolled off defeated in the last over of the day. Basically, Kohli doesn’t do appropriate facial expressions. Some sort of inverse Asperger’s, perhaps?

    3. Let me take a crack at deciphering it.

      Anger upon reaching batting milestone = I have won! I’m such a badass. I will now growl like a tiger because everyone should be afraid of me

      Or as spiritual guru Shastri might put it: “Brash young man with natural aggression”

      Getting out in last over of the day after needlessly chasing wide one as a result of over-hyping self = Damn! Well, never mind, I have already won by reaching batting milestone, and am a valiant hero perishing in a blaze of glory. I shall now revel in my glory.

      Shastri: “Never afraid to play his natural game, whatever the situation”

      Hmmm, youre right, there could be some fun times ahead…

  5. Gavaskar, Tendulkar and Dravid all had better batting averages away from home than in India. Sehwag averaged 49 in India and 45 away.

  6. I dont think Dhoni inherently enjoyed test cricket any less than the shorter formats. Given India’s average bowling and top order collapses in away tests, it just seemed he realized and accepted that he could not do enough personally to influence those games.

    There’s not a lot you can do as a No. 6 or 7 batsman walking out with your team having scored less than a hundred after conceding 500 to the opposition. You could annoy and frustrate the other team to an extent, but thats about it. I don’t find it entirely surprising that his enjoyment of the game diminished.

    Although the least successful of the many things Dhoni has been for Indian cricket, I enjoyed his doughty grafter avataar in away tests. It will be hard to get used to him not being there.

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