India in Australia 2011-12 January 31, 2012

If there is a better man, give him the job - Dhoni

MS Dhoni isn't making any predictions about giving up Test cricket or any other format after 2013. But his matter-of-fact statements are open to interpretation

"I just said my statement. The best thing about statements is, you can assume it the way you want to."

That was MS Dhoni's response when told how his statement that he might have to give up Test cricket at the end of 2013 if he is to captain India to their World Cup defence was seen by many as a general disinterest in Test cricket.

"Maybe by 2013 I'll have to," Dhoni said. "It is two years away, and the kind of cricket we are playing - IPL, 45 days; Champions League; and back-to-back series; lots of games. We have to see where we last. It's not a calendar year where you get a lot of rest, and you get away with small niggles during that rest period."

Dhoni then sought to clarify his thought process. "I said end of 2013," he said. "Now it's the start of 2012, 2013 is two years. I don't know whether I will be alive in two years. That's a long time. What I said was, by the end of 2013, I will have to see whether I can play the World Cup. It wasn't about one format, it was about cricket. I can't play till 2014 and say I am not fit enough to survive till the next World Cup. And you'll have a player coming in who has played just 25 games."

When pointedly asked if he was as interested in Tests as he was in other formats, and whether Test cricket was as important in his mind, Dhoni's response was emphatic. "Of course. Test cricket is the real cricket." However, he went on to say he wasn't running down the other formats either.

"Every form of cricket has its own challenges," Dhoni said. "You have the Test format, the longer version. You have ODI cricket where you can see glimpses of Test cricket and Twenty20s, especially with two balls getting used. And all of a sudden a team loses three or four wickets, and you go and do the consolidating job and then go on with the slog. And then there is the shortest format where you lose five wickets, you go in and the longest consolidating period you get is one over and you start hitting again. All of them are very interesting, and as long as I am able to, I will play all the three formats."

Dhoni was then asked where he felt he was on his Test journey. "I am still on my way. I have not reached any place," he said, suggesting there might finally be something in a Dhoni press conference that might reveal his inner feelings, before going on to show it was just a tease. "If I remember, the thing I said was 2013, which is two years from now on. I don't know if you will be covering cricket or not. I don't know if I will be playing cricket or not. That's a long time."

"Now it's the start of 2012. 2013 is two years. I don't know whether I will be alive in two years"

That's the thing with Dhoni. You never know. If you haven't been to a match, you won't be able to tell from Dhoni's face if he has won it or lost it. There is a sense of detachment, whether real or rehearsed, that has worked for Dhoni, ridding him of the pressures Indian captaincy brings. It has consumed the best of them, even the best tactical captain India has had, Rahul Dravid.

Dhoni has fought it by not acknowledging it, but over the last 12 months, especially after India won the World Cup, you wonder if he has been too detached when India needed a more involved leader to oversee the transition to the next phase. In Australia, loss after loss brought the same combination, same strategy, same faces, same answers. You didn't get a feeling somebody was taking charge. You didn't see Dhoni change his tactics on the field. You can't blame the thinkers for thinking he didn't care. Dhoni, though, will tell you only he knows how much he cares. However, people who wanted to see a sign didn't get to see one.

Then there was intrigue off the field. There were reports of Virender Sehwag wanting the captaincy, and that he was not very appreciative of Dhoni's work. Not to forget that Sehwag can't be very appreciative of his own work, either as batsman or captain at this stage. Sehwag, of course, denied all that. Now that the series is gone, though, rumour mills are abuzz again. Dhoni's captaincy in Tests away from subcontinent is bound to come under scrutiny.

When asked where he saw himself vis-à-vis the captaincy issue, Dhoni said: "It's an added role and responsibility for me. It's not a position that belongs to anyone. That responsibility was given to me three-and-a-half years back. I have been trying to do well, get along with the team, perform well wherever we play.

"It's just a position I hold. It's something I'll always look to do well [as long as] I am in the job. It's not something I want to hold on to or stick on to. If there's a better replacement, it's a very open thing. He can come in. At the end of the day you want India to perform. If there is someone who can do a better job, then it's a place that should be given to him. It's not something you have to cling on to."

When asked if, given his workload, he had enough left to go on and lead India's attempt at rebuilding from the defeats, Dhoni said: "It's not an individual who decides whether he is good enough or not. It's others who decide if you are good enough or not. When it comes to effort, I am still giving my 100%."

To paraphrase Dhoni himself, the beauty of statements is, they are open to interpretations. As are the last two. Is he resigned to losing his Test captaincy? Is he so detached he won't fight if it is taken away? Will he not be desperate to correct the lasting memory of his captaincy - back-to-back whitewashes? Or - and this is interesting - is he daring the powers to find a man better suited to the job because there isn't anybody in sight at the moment?

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Victor on February 3, 2012, 4:05 GMT

    The Indian cricket team needs to purge the older players as it seems they want to play forever. Tendulkhar, Dravid and Laxman have to go and I wonder if the Indian Cricket Board have the guts to do the right thing. Sehwag has been a big disappointment and he has to go too.India needs to build a team from scratch and then inject young players into its team hence it is blend of experience and youth.

  • Vikram on February 2, 2012, 23:40 GMT

    The entire Indian test team should be revamped. Here is my selection for the next Test Series.

    1. Ajinkya Rahane 2. Abhinav Mukund 3. Virat Kohli 4. Cheteshwar Pujara 5. Rohit Sharma 6. Ambati Rayadu (wicket-keeper) 7. Irfan Pathan (all-rounder) 9. Ravichandran Ashwin / Rahul Sharma 10.Praveen Kumar 11.Zaheer Khan 12.Umesh Yadav / Varun Aaron

  • Dummy4 on February 2, 2012, 20:55 GMT

    How many "you know" are there in Dhoni's interview.. Anyone... who counted ? :-P

  • Dummy4 on February 2, 2012, 18:11 GMT

    Dhoni don't give up. Just two back to back white washes doesn't mean the captaincy is bad. The same test side is a very good side. Look at the recent past, 6 months before, what Dhoni has done as a captain and the batsmen like Shahwag and Laxman, they have done very well, just few failures doesn't mean they should be dropped. We want Dhoni as the captain for the next world cup as well. The Indian fans just can't bare a defeat, they put the pressure on the captain and on the players, just give them a break yaar, they are also human beings... India will bounce back hardly i.a... A die hard Indian fan from Sri Lanka....

  • Dummy4 on February 2, 2012, 15:55 GMT

    Relieve him of the Captaincy- Make Virat the Test captain and Rohit the VC , a long time prospect with whom team can be buid around without the 3 greats.

    For ODI and 2020 make Dhoni the Captain and Virat the VC

    The Test team could be Gambhir, Rahane, Vijay/Mukund, Virat, Rohit, Pujara , Badrinath,Dinesh Karthik, Ashwin, Ojha,yadav, aaron, ishant , Praveen Kumar

  • Ashok on February 2, 2012, 14:47 GMT

    I have stated many times in the Cricinfo columns that India needs 3 different captains for 3 formats, as other Nations have. Why does India persist with inept captaincy of Dhoni in all 3 formats is a mystery. No wonder india never develops any new faces or unravel new talent. If Dhoni is to captain India in any format he needs to attend several courses and brush his cricketing knowledge. This is the guy who said he never heard of Farookh Engineer- a brilliant Indian WK, preceding him. Amazingly, Farookh was better than Dhoni in batting & as a WK. Dhoni has to shed his Villager background and update his knowledge if he wants to be Indian skipper. I personally feel Tiwary, Kohli & Raina need to be trained to take on the Captaincy role. Kohli needs to polish up his PR + diplomacy+ anger management a bit. Tiwary is very balanced while Raina needs more confidence. But all 3 are good. I leave it up to Indian Selectors to decide Dhoni as a Captain & a specific format other than Tests.

  • Sathish on February 2, 2012, 9:35 GMT

    Good that a waste dumb fellow accepted he is dumb and quitting captaincy

  • Dummy4 on February 2, 2012, 9:31 GMT

    Dhoni has been a great captain however his team has let him down. He has always done great at home in international games as well as in IPL. However the team has not performed well in the recent past especially outside the sub-continent. The bowlers are not performing well. The batsmen have failed to score runs consistently. The youngsters are not being given enough chances to prove themselves. I think the whole management needs overhauling and the team should come up with new and better tactics and strategies when they are playing against teams like Australia, England in their home. The margins of defeat were huge. But I think putting all the blame on captain is not a wise thing to do in these circumstances. The team was good but it failed to deliver. Also there is a problem with pitches also. In India we have flat pitches with no pace,swing and bounce. Therefore the batsmen and the bowlers feel it difficult to adjust to conditions in abroad.

  • Umakanth on February 2, 2012, 6:54 GMT

    At least even now the selectors has to take a brave call on several senior players such as Sehwag,Gambhir,Laxman. They are supposed to be sacked from test team . Dhoni who failed as a Test captain because of of lacking tactics should be releived from the duties. BCCI should set up a meeting by including senior former cricketers, Sachin, Dravid and Ganguly along with selectors to understand the necessity of making Sachin as captain for the test format and Virat Kohli as a vice captain. And also our bowling coach needs to be changed , if possible has to bring Donald or Wasim Akram as bowling coach for Team India. Sachin and Dravid will surely retire on high note. If Dhoni had given chance to Rohith Sahrma and Abhimanyu Mithun at perth and Ojha at Adelaid the result could have been different. It may be 3-0 or 3-1 rather than 4-0.

  • Milind on February 2, 2012, 6:38 GMT

    Dhoni should either resign quietly or just keep his mouth shut! He is not doing us a big favor by being the captain of the Indian team. Same goes to Dravid et al when they say that they would like to see youngsters come good before they retire!

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