Cricket: Dhoni makes Test exit, Kohli assumes reigns

Melbourne/Mumbai, Dec 30 (IANS) Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni Tuesday sent world cricket into a tizzy by announcing his shock retirement from Tests, making way for Virat Kohli to take charge of arguably the most stressful job in the sport.

Dhoni, dubbed ‘captain cool’, brought his Test tenure to an end with immediate effect after India failed to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) here, citing strain of playing all three formats of the game.

Kohli, who captained the side in the first Test in Adelaide, will now lead India in the final Test in Sydney starting Jan 6.

Dhoni was in an upbeat mood when he faced the media after play despite the result, but he made no reference to his future in the game.

Around 45 minutes after his press conference concluded, the the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) issued a statement announcing his retirement, sending shockwaves in the cricket fraternity.

What has irked most cricket puritans has been the timing of Dhoni’s retirement – in the middle of a Test series against Australia even though it is a lost cause.

Kohli’s aggressiveness, sometimes bordering on brash and go for the kill attitude in Adelaide gave a glimpse into life beyond Dhoni.

Former cricketers from all over the globe praised Kohli’s captaincy and how team India went for the win instead of being defensive and just making the numbers.

Dhoni’s sudden decision was surely swayed by Kohli’s performance in the first Test and with another overseas Test series defeat concluded, his stand probably became all the more easy.

India’s most successful captain has had a torrid of late and has been criticised for his poor overseas record.

Trailing 0-2 in the four-match Test series, the third match here Tuesday ended in a stalemate.

India’s poor run in Tests overseas continued, prompting Dhoni, who guided India to most number of Test wins as captain (27), to quit the five-day format.

In a statement issued in Mumbai by BCCI, secretary Sanjay Patel said the board respected the 33-year-old Dhoni’s decision and thanked him for his “enormous contribution to Tests cricket and the laurels that he has brought to India”.

“M.S. Dhoni has chosen to retire from Test Cricket with immediate effect in order to concentrate on ODI and T20 formats,” said the BCCI statement.

“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.”

“Virat Kohli will be the captain of the Indian Team for the fourth and final Test against Australia to be played in Sydney from the Jan 6, 2015.”

Dhoni has played 90 Tests for India, scoring 4,876 runs and was instrumental in taking the Indian team to the top of Test rankings.

India became the No.1 team in the International Cricket Council’s Test rankings under Dhoni’s leadership. Out of the 90 Tests he played, Dhoni captained India in 60 matches.

However, his overseas record had been a source of criticism as he led India to six wins, 15 losses in 30 Tests.

The team had been whitewashed 0-4 in England (2011) and Australia (2011-12) under his leadership.

Besides this, the team also suffered defeats in South Africa and New Zealand and lost to England yet again this summer.

England also inflicted further damage by winning the Test series in India in 2012/13 after 28 years and also became the first team to win a series on Indian soil in eight years.

Dhoni’s retirement prompted widespread reactions on social media, with tributes flooding in from all corners of the globe, including from legendary Sachin Tendulkar and inspirational Australian skipper Ricky Ponting.

Tendulkar congratulated Dhoni on a wonderful career and also urged him to help India defend the World Cup title.

“well done on a wonderful career in test cricket @msdhoni. Always enjoyed playing together. Next target 2015 WC my friend!!,” Tendulkar tweeted.

Reacting to Dhoni’s retirement from Test cricket, former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting praised Dhoni for his competitiveness and also said Indian cricket owed a lot to him.

“A great competitor, and someone who I think Indian cricket owes a lot to,” former Australian captain Ponting wrote on Twitter.

Indian legendary spinner Bishan Singh Bedi was taken by surprise following Dhoni’s decision to quit in the middle of the ongoing Test series.

“MSDhoni’s retirement in midst of test series leaves lot of us perplexed! But that’s his prerogative.I’d like 2 wish MSD Happy Retirement!!,” Bedi wrote on Twitter.

Dhoni (eight catches, one stumping) last act of note in the Test arena saw him become the first Indian wicketkeeper to effect nine dismissals in a Test match in Melbourne.

Overall, he became the third wicketkeeper to achieve the feat against Australia – the first two being David Murray (West Indies) at Melbourne in December 1981 and Ridley Jacobs (also of the West Indies) at Melbourne in December 2000.

Dhoni also became the first Indian batsman to complete 10,000 runs or more as captain in international cricket, joining Ricky Ponting (15,440), Graeme Smith (14,878), Stephen Fleming (11,561) and Allan Border (11,062).