Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has retired from Test cricket “citing the strain of playing all formats”, and Virat Kohli will lead the team in the fourth Test against Australia in Sydney, the cricket board said Tuesday.
The shock announcement came minutes after Dhoni faced reporters in the wake of India’s draw in the third Test against Australia in Melbourne, which conceded the four-match series 2-0 to the hosts.
Dhoni, 33, said nothing of his retirement plans during the post-match media conference at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the news was broken on the Board of Control for Cricket in India BCCI’s Twitter feed.
“MS Dhoni has chosen to retire from Test Cricket with immediate effect,” it said.
“Virat (Kohli) will be the captain for the 4th and Final Test against Australia.”
Long considered Dhoni’s heir apparent, Kohli led the team in the first Test against Australia in Adelaide, scoring back-to-back centuries in his debut as captain and earning plaudits for his aggressive approach despite the cliff-hanging loss by 48 runs.
The BCCI later issued a statement saying the wicketkeeper-captain would now concentrate on one-day internationals and Twenty20 cricket, a surprise move given most senior cricketers generally forgo the shorter formats of the game in a bid to preserve their Test careers.
“One of India’s greatest Test Captains under whose leadership India became the No. 1 team in the Test Rankings MS Dhoni, has decided to retire from Test Cricket citing the strain of playing all formats of Cricket,” the statement said.
“BCCI while respecting the decision of M S Dhoni to retire from Test Cricket, wishes to thank him for his enormous contribution to Test Cricket and the laurels that he has brought to India.”
Dhoni’s overseas record of late, however, has been disappointing. The team was whitewashed 0-4 in England (2011) and Australia (2011-12) under his leadership. Besides the team also suffered defeats in South Africa and New Zealand and had been beaten by England yet again this summer.
Yet the wicketkeeper-batsman remains one of the most successful captains ever for India, having led the side to the top of ICC rankings in Tests and ODIs.
Dhoni played 90 tests for India since making his debut against Sri Lanka in Chennai in 2005, a year after playing his first one-dayer.
He has since scored 4,876 runs at an average of 38.09 with six centuries and 33 half centuries.
Dhoni has also taken 256 catches and 38 stumpings, as well as becoming the first Indian wicketkeeper to take nine dismissals in a match – achieved in the just completed third test.
Dhoni took over from Rahul Dravid as India captain in 2007 and led the side in 60 tests – 27 wins, 18 losses and 15 draws.
But, he was in the eye of storm recently when it was insinuated that his name was there in the Mudgal Commission report on the IPL 6 spot-fixing scandal.
His stewardship is likely to be hotly debated for months and years to come, having taken India’s Test team to the top ranking for a brief period, but also leading a team that would invariably fail to perform away from home soil.
“He just has not really got the team going at Test match level. That’s up to the selectors but he has had a lot of time as captain, close to 60 Test matches. I think he has had a lot of time,” former captain Ganguly had recently said of Dhoni, “I think Dhoni is a good captain. The record he has in one-day cricket, he is a good captain. But in Test conditions overseas, it has just fallen away a bit.”Though not a victory, Dhoni’s last Test in charge may have been satisfying on a personal level, having struck an unbeaten 24 to help guide his team to safety on the fifth and final day as Australia’s seamers pushed hard for a third successive win.