Indian cricket April 24, 2012

Give MS Dhoni his due

From Kaushik Bhattacharya, UK

From Kaushik Bhattacharya, UK

Given he's the most celebrated cricketer India have had (with the exception of Tendulkar), it feels strange to say MS Dhoni is underrated. But I do think he's not given due credit for his achievements as a Test match wicketkeeper-batsman.

Partly, I think it’s his excellence as an ODI cricketer (second-highest batting average among all players with 4000-plus runs) that overshadows his achievements in the Test arena. Add to that, he looks somewhat ungainly (both as a wicketkeeper and a batsman), and for some unfathomable reason most people have the view that great Test match players need to be elegant or graceful. The recent Test thrashings meted out to his team in England and Australia have given fodder to his bashers to begin the "Oh, but he can't play Test cricket" refrain.

Ultimately, the things that matter are performance on the field, the numbers you rack up and the results you deliver. Let’s have a look at the stats. Starting off small-scale, there’s no doubt that Dhoni's been India's best Test wicketkeeper-batsmen ever (and he's not finished yet). He has the most dismissals already and at a rate (dismissals per innings) higher than anyone else who's played at least 10 games with only Dinesh Karthik coming close. Also (again for keepers who've played at least 10 Tests), his batting average is higher than his closest rival (Budhi Kunderan) by over four runs per innings. And he needs to play only 22 matches more to go past Kirmani as the most tenured Indian wicketkeeper.

Going further afield, if you look at top wicketkeepers of all time, Dhoni ranks ninth in terms of overall dismissals and 14th if you look at dismissals per innings (for players who've kept in more than 30 Tests).

Turning to batting, his average is the sixth-highest of all time (again for players who've kept in more than 30 Tests) and ahead of men like Alec Stewart and Brendon McCullum who've played as specialist batsmen at times.

Plus, he's captained the side in 37 of his 67 Tests and has a win-loss ratio that's the best ever for an Indian captain and the eleventh-best for all captains (who've led their side in 35-plus Tests). This without a bowling attack half as good as that which any of the ten men above him had at their disposal. He didn't even have Srinath and Kumble (unlike Ganguly, who had at least the latter for much of his reign) who are probably India's best modern-day pace and spin bowlers respectively.

So, give the man his due and stop branding him as only an ODI and T20 champion. He's been good in Tests but needs better support from his team (especially the bowlers) to keep proving.

P.S: For those who say he can't score runs in pace-friendly conditions, he averages 39 in England and 31 in South Africa, though he’s been poor in Australia, averaging 19.