India v England, 2nd Test, Mumbai November 22, 2012

Dhoni creeps up on Ganguly

Victory against England in Mumbai would draw MS Dhoni level with India's most successful Test captain

This Test is right up MS Dhoni's alley. This is - and it needs little reminding - Virender Sehwag's 100th Test. While all eyes will be on the maverick, who debuted with a hundred in seaming Bloemfontein and will want to join Gordon Greenidge and Javed Miandad as men with centuries in both their first and 100th Tests, if Sehwag does continue to steal the limelight it will only help Dhoni quietly sneak up as the joint-most successful Test captain for India. And that's the way Dhoni likes to operate. Quietly.

Ahmedabad was Dhoni's 20th win as India's Test captain. Sourav Ganguly led India to 21 wins. Ganguly captained India in 49 Tests, Dhoni has taken 40. It will of course be mentioned here, and reminded again and again, that under Dhoni India have won just three Tests outside Asia, and have endured two of the worst series defeats. If you take out Zimbabwe, even under Ganguly India won just three Tests outside Asia. However, this cannot be a direct contest of numbers. Ganguly was building a team and a new culture; Dhoni is carrying it on.

These things, though, hardly bother Dhoni now. He famously lives in the moment. Dhoni's mind right now is focused on enjoying the upper hand at home, and also warding off some criticism alleging he wishes to "doctor the pitches".

Dhoni was neither apologetic about his criticism of the Ahmedabad pitch nor was he going to revisit his stance. "I was just trying to take the equation of the toss out," Dhoni said. "I was doing the good part, but different people have different opinions."

Unsure if he will ever get a pitch with turn and bounce, Dhoni said he will resort to public criticism again, should the one at Wankhede Stadium behave similarly to the one at Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad. "The wicket looks good," he said. "As it is the case in reviewing the decision, I have delayed it by five days. If this pitch also does not help our spinners, then I will again come and criticise it. But it looks like a good wicket to start off." This is one area of his captaincy where he has chosen to take an aggressive stance, and there must be good reason for his doing so.

Dhoni said teams might have a problem with his demands for pitches with turn and bounce because they have become used to flat tracks in India. "People talk of different challenges when it comes to playing in England, New Zealand, West Indies, Australia and South Africa," Dhoni said. "When they come to India, they get flat wickets. So maybe that is why they don't like it when the ball turns."

All this he said with a wide grin on his face. This is a far cry from the days in Australia when his comment that he will have to retire from one format of the game before World Cup 2015 drew the ire of, among others, Ganguly. Dhoni was at pains to explain how he meant his body might not be able to take the stress of all formats until Australia 2015, and he didn't mean to suggest he wasn't committed to Test cricket, but the timing of that comment remained questionable, coming as it did during India's worst year in Test cricket.

At some time during this home season - there are seven Tests to go still - Dhoni should join Ganguly at the top. However, Dhoni will want to make sure he does it to double the series lead, and not to regain it or level a series. He doesn't want to take England lightly after their fightback in Ahmedabad, despite their first-innings failure.

"The fact remains that the start of the second Test is always a fresh day," Dhoni said. "You have to start from scratch. There will be quite a few positives that the English side will take out of the last game. They will be coming with a positive mindset. I don't think it is very difficult to get out of the loss now because the T20 format has taught us to be in the same state of mind irrespective of whether you have lost or won the game."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jasim on November 23, 2012, 14:14 GMT


    Sehwag/Yuvi/Zaheer/Laxman were regulars when Ganguly started ? They came into their peaks during his career..Agreed Ganguly wasnt a great test batsman but he was a good leader..much better than the time Dhoni was captain..the team has already been transformed with youth and was much easier to manage..

    As for Dhoni as a batsman , he is a shahid Afridi with a brain

  • sam on November 23, 2012, 11:25 GMT

    @yoohoo And what about Dhoni's terrible defensive captaincy especially away from home? Because of him (and to some extent Ishant as well) India did not register a first ever test series win in SA. And his captaincy in England and Australia. To say it was poor is an understatement. It was pathetic. And you compare him to Sourav who is easily India's best test captain in the last 25 years? First captain under whom in a long time famed Indian batting didn't lose its pants away from home. Even Tendulkar and Azhar had the same batting line-up (except Sehwag but they had Azhar) but what did they achieve away from home. Nothing, absolutely nothing (lost to Zimbabwe). Sourav was the first captain who made India fight away from home. Sure he is not a great captain (he had plenty of flaws) but he is a far better captain then anyone (except Dravid who also a good test captain) in the last 25 years for India. Dhoni for me is worser than Azhar and Kumble (better than Tendulkar) as a test captain.

  • Dummy4 on November 23, 2012, 10:59 GMT

    Ganguly and Kumble got India won test matches in Australia. Dhoni can never do that and that is the core of captaincy. India's record in India is not a measure of one's captaincy. For all his records, Dhoni is nowhere near Ganguly or Kumble as far as intelligence and resilience is concerned. Send India under Dhoni to Australia and he is sure to return empty handed. With Ganguly and Kumble you would expect a fight, a win and some pride with bruised body, with Dhoni it's only long faces returning home.

  • Cricinfouser on November 23, 2012, 10:53 GMT

    Dhoni is good but Best Captain of India has to be Ganguly.. Sachin had been playing for years before ganguly became captain but since ganguly led the team... India started winning. Earlier people used to switch off TV once Sachin was out. But Ganguly changed it. He gave confidence to players like Sehvag Yuvraj Bhaaji without whom India couldnt have done better. The Natwest Win was most crucial because it showed India is more than Sachin.

  • Sreekanth on November 23, 2012, 9:45 GMT

    @Jassim Ahmed - I think Ganguly gets more credit than he deserves. Most of his victories were because he was blessed with a once in a century batting line-up of Sehwag-dravid-sachin-laxman at their peak. As captain he took a lot of credit for their performances. Dhoni on the other hand has had to manage with ageing players much past their peak in tests. That is why he has been successful in ODIs/T20s more since he got a young team there (though not as good as what ganguly got).

    Even the 2003 world cup when india reached final, we were pretty lucky. We never had to play SA and we got to play Kenya in the Semi-finals. How much luckier can you get? In 2011 though, we had to play SA, Eng, Aus, Pak and SL on the way to the cup. It shows that we were the best then.

  • vikram on November 23, 2012, 9:25 GMT

    common guys ganguly had almost all his players at their prime.... the team after 2007 has defenitely faded a bit

  • sarath on November 23, 2012, 6:23 GMT

    I totally agree with jassim Ahmed...ganguly is more of the Steve Waugh or mark Taylor all about building a team and dhoni is more like ponting who succeeded on a set platform....dhoni might have a better record but ganguly did for India none have done that so faar....

  • Senthil on November 23, 2012, 6:17 GMT

    Dhoni doesn't show off, and has no reason to impose his personality on anybody or anything. Ganguly was a great leader of men, but he always had to bring his personality to the fore and it was great, don't get me wrong, but they are different people, so of course there will be a difference in the way they lead. Better or worse, Dhoni will probably leave the game as India' s most successful, most celebrated captain. Isn't it interesting that the two have birthdays just one day apart?

  • Nadeem on November 23, 2012, 5:37 GMT

    wow i agree that T2020 has set the mindset of teams that losing a match does not matter as long as you have positive intentions. England will be on fire in this match. I like T2020 because it has given us new ways to analyse and understand cricket for all formats.

  • Dummy4 on November 23, 2012, 3:17 GMT

    I think we can't compare our two captains on the basis of only win/total nos of matches,this issue is subjective in nature.Actually captaining a side is not about win or losses only.How much respect earn a captain by their co-players?Does he able to keep a good team spirit among players?How does he uses his resources and able to make a successful strategy against opposition?How players respond to captains decision?Field setting and line of attack against a particular batsman is also very important.If you missed the moment against good batsman, you will pay the price.After all this is game, very first team should enjoy the game then only you will get best results out of them. Many people blame Dhoni for 2 big series losses but I can't shallow this idea because if Sachin, Dravid, Laxman and Sehwag will not make runs how the team will win. Our bowling is mediocre, if batsmen also perform the same way then any expectation will be wrong.

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