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I have recently expressed my pleasure at MS Dhonis retirement from Test cricket at

social media sites. And this has drawn some flak from MSD fans. So let me say here
that I dont have anything personal against MSD I dont hate him. However, I felt
the need to say a few things in the light of all the criticism that has been directed at
me for being unable to appreciate Indias greatest captain.
The first claim that came across from a friend was that Dhoni has the numbers and
there is nothing more to say about it anymore. Well, numbers can say anything you
want them to say. The emphasis should always be on the situation where those
numbers were achieved. For example, in terms of numbers MAK Pataudi or Lala
Amarnath are nowhere near Dhoni so is that indicative of Dhonis superiority over
these stalwarts?
Lets take some other numbers, Indias most successful captain ever, outside Asia,
is Rahul Dravid. Dhoni would have definitely been out of that list had it not been for
the fact that he has managed to win 6 Test matches outside India while captaining
in 30. So is Rahul Dravid then a better captain then Dhoni or Ganguly or Pataudi?
In another case, a teammate of mine and a hardcore MSD fan, immediately started
abusing Ganguly. He probably was hurt that I was not as appreciative of Dhoni as he
is; and probably just wanted to get back at me. But in this case, he assumed that I
consider Ganguly as Indias all-time greatest captain.
Before tackling the captaincy issue let me reiterate that I dont hate Dhoni. I just
think he is unsuitable as a Test captain. Allow me to also expand on my reasons.
1. When Dhoni was handed the reins of the Test team, it was the No. 2 team in
the world. Still with a batting lineup that included Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag
and Tendulkar. However, as these stalwarts started to age and retire, Dhonis
team started to decline reaching the No. 6 spot currently. In contrast, when
Ganguly took over the reins of the team, India was at No. 8 and in 5 years he
brought the team to No. 2. Both Dravid and Kumble were able to hold onto
that spot and even inched towards making it No. 1. Thus when one squarely
praises Dhoni for the No. 1 spot, it is unfair to all three captains that preceded
Dhoni. Furthermore, it is also to be noted that losing the No. 1 Test spot was
also not Dhonis encumbrance. However, dropping India back to No. 6 is
Dhonis burden alone.
2. This one is no secret. While Dhonis fans stoically try to push this under the
carpet, even they acknowledge that Dhoni is no tactician. Dhoni picks a team
and expects the individual players to deliver towards a result. Test matches
just cant be won that way. Mind you, however, that he is clever when it
comes to field placing. In an ODI or a T20, Dhoni can choke opponents into
making mistakes; but in a Test match, a high quality batsman cant be
stopped in that manner.

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3. Thirdly, Dhonis team selection for Test matches is confusing if not outright
ludicrous, especially when the man plans to ride on individual performances.
Lets consider Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina as Test match cricketers.
Firstly, Jadeja is the typical bits and pieces cricketer. Such a player can be
immensely successful in the shorter format of the game or in situations
where India needs to score quick runs. However, he simply does not possess
the temperament or the technique to bat long innings in a Test match. Suresh
Raina on the other hand, is a classic flat track bully. Like Ganguly, he has
problems at deliveries that rise fast and sharp into his body. But unlike
Ganguly, he does not have the temperament or the technique to overshadow
that weakness. A man who comes into a difficult situation and immediately
tries to hook a rising ball in unfamiliar conditions against a world class
bowling attack while knowing it to be his biggest weakness, does not belong
in the international Test arena. I am not going to include Shikhar Dhawan in
this list just because India probably has a shortage of openers right now. But
at the end of the day, even he is a flat track bully. I have always maintained
that a captain is as good as the players he backs and in that area Dhoni has
never succeeded in Test matches.
I also have issues with Dhonis batting, which is plain ugly. While I am not surprised
to see him succeed in limited overs cricket, its a real surprise and a tribute to the
mans doggedness that Dhoni maintains a 38+ average over 90 Tests. So I guess
there is nothing to complain about ugly or otherwise.
Coming back to the point of Indias greatest captain, I really dont think we have
one. Every captain comes in a different era and has to face different challenges.
Would Ganguly had been as good as a captain if he had been given Tiger Pataudis
team! What would Pataudi had done if he was given Dhonis team! These are
questions that can never be satisfactorily answered and as such, a comparison
between captains is just not possible. But personally, from what I have read and
seen, I would vote for MAK Tiger Pataudi to be Indias greatest captain of all time.
The man was dignified, courageous, had a clear vision and knew his players in and
out.
A very famous example of this was the third Test match during the West Indies tour
of India, played at the Eden Gardens between 27 th January, 1974 and 1st December,
1975. Pataudi was the Indian captain and was playing against Clive Lloyds
formidable team. In the final innings, West Indies was batting and after the fall of
two wickets looked comfortably set to win the match. Pataudi had the guile of Bedi
and the magic of Prasanna in his armory along with the unpredictability of
Chandrasekhar. Both Bedi and Prasanna were bowling beautifully but were being
rotated from one end by Pataudi. Whereas, Tiger persisted with Chandrasekhar at
the other end and he was getting hammered. The crowd was on its feet hurling
abuses at Pataudi of all form and color (he was married to Sharmila Tagore by then
and there were rumors that he will soon star in a film). However, once
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Chandrasekhar got his bowling right there was no stopping him. The West Indians
never knew what hit them and were defeated. Post this match, Pataudi claimed that
only Chandrasekhar could have won India the match; it was just a matter of him
finding his consistency. I am not quite sure whether any other captain could have
made that decision.
Tiger Pataudi had played 40 Test matches in 14 years as captain winning only 9 of
those. But come take a look at his team. He had Vijay Manjrekar playing for him
during his early years (62-65); Chandu Borde for a long time (62-69); Bapu Nadkarni
(62-68); Ramakant Desai (62 68); M.L. Jaisimha (62 71); Salim Durani (62 73);
Rusi Surti (62 69); Farokh Engineer (62 75); Dilip Sardesai (62 72); Prasanna
(62 75); Chandrasekhar (64 75); Hanumant Singh (64 69); Venkataraghavan
(65 75); Ajit Wadekar (66 74); Bedi (67 75); Abid Ali (67 74); Ashok Mankad
(69 74); Chetan Chauhan (69 74); Eknath Solkar (69 74); Gundappa
Vishwanath (69 74); Sunil Gavaskar (71 74) and Mohinder Amarnath (69 74).
This list is not all-inclusive but just most of the most-regular players in the team.
The interesting things in this list are as follows:
1. There are no great players in the team for most part. There is Vijay Manjrekar
at the very beginning. Mohinder Amarnath, Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa
Vishwanath at the very end. Chetan Chauhan did not play much under
Pataudi.
2. There are no fast bowlers of any repute.
The only thing Pataudi had for most of his career as captain was the service of some
world class spinners. His batsmen, more often than not, were good for 30 or 40
runs. Examples follow:
1. Bapu Nadkarni 1 century/7 half-centuries from 41 Tests (avg = 25.7)
2. Chandu Borde 5 centuries/18 half-centuries from 55 Tests (avg = 35.59)
3. Jaisimha 3 centuries/12 half-centuries from 39 Tests (avg = 30.68)
4. Durani 1 century/7 half-centuries from 29 Tests (avg = 25.04)
5. Rusi Surti 9 half-centuries from 26 Tests (avg = 28.7)
6. Engineer 2 centuries/16 half centuries from 46 Tests (avg = 31.08)
7. Sardesai 5 centuries/9 half-centuries from 30 Tests (avg = 39.23)
8. Hanumant Singh 1 century/5 half-centuries from 14 Tests (avg = 31.18)
9. Ajit Wadekar 1 century/14 half-centuries in 37 Tests (avg = 31.07)
10.Ashok Mankad 6 half-centuries in 22 Tests (avg = 25.41)
11.Solkar 1 century/6 half-centuries in 27 Tests (avg = 25.42)
Players capable of a 40+ average Amarnath, Vishwanath and Gavaskar arrived
on scene at the end of Pataudis tenure. Among the batsmen listed, only 3
Sardesai, Borde and Hanumant Singh crossed the 50-run mark about once in
every 4/5 innings. And this was the team Pataudi won 9 Test matches with against
the might of the likes of the English, the West Indians and the Australians.

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