India v England, 2nd Test, Mumbai

Dhoni creeps up on Ganguly

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

Sidharth Monga

November 22, 2012

Comments: 22 | Text size: A | A

Cheteshwar Pujara and MS Dhoni share a light moment at nets, Bangalore, August 29, 2012
MS Dhoni will draw level with Sourav Ganguly as India's most successful Test captain if his side wins in Mumbai © Associated Press

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

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by JassimA 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

Posted by SamRoy 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.

Posted by   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.

Posted by Whats_Cricket 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.

Posted by yoohoo 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.

Posted by MVKD 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

Posted by rlefti 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....

Posted by sweetspot 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?

Posted by Nadeem1976 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.

Posted by   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.

Posted by   on (November 23, 2012, 1:28 GMT)

Jeez I cannot believe this is an even a debate ? Did people here actually watch cricket prior Ganguly era ?..Ganguly with the help of John Wright changed the entire ethos of the Indian side.. 1)Integrating new players into the side 2) Instilling belief in the side , the game is not over till the last ball/last wicket 3) Became a better ODI side and a test side , travelling side as well 4) How can we forget our contests with Australia, the mighty Australia ? at home and abroad

Ganguly was a sesnational leader..people didnt realise it back then , but he was the catalyst for change in indian cricket..Dhoni is good limited over captain/cricketer but he wouldnt even get into any side in the world in tests..This is no-brainer

Posted by Masud_BITK on (November 22, 2012, 21:53 GMT)

The theory is simple as that India is producing more talents/players than before. If someone comes later to captain India, it would be much easier him than Sourav and/or Dhoni. At the Era of (/before) Saurav, he was great captain but at this time, Dhoni is more successful than Saurav. So as to Azharuddin and Kapil. They are two different people; Saurav likes Attack; Dhoni, on the other hand, quiet, calm and wins. For example, comparing Ponting and Clarke, Clarke like challenging and less-selfish than Ponting. It does not mean that Ponting is bad. This is how individual thoughts work.

Posted by the_blue_android on (November 22, 2012, 21:16 GMT)

Sid monga is also a Viru Sehwag fan! I fail to understand how a cricket expert can be a 'fan' of a cricketer whose success ratio outside of Asia is 1 in 25 innings.

Posted by usernames on (November 22, 2012, 20:52 GMT)

Continuing my last comment, I think people will realize, as is the case with almost anything else, Dhoni's actual strengths (hint: his calm demeanour isn't a weakness, it's a strength) a few years after he's gone. One other important point to note is that Ganguly's batting went down considerably when he was the captain; however, Dhoni has remained one of the best batsmen in ODIs even after he was awarded captaincy. That's not a benchmark to judge a captain with, however, the next 12-15 tests will tell you, if Dhoni remains the captain, how good or bad he is. He's building a team right now, and the players he picks, how he backs them (and he's very, very good at that), etc. will decide his legacy. As an ODI batsman, and purely a batsman, he will go down in the history as one of the finest India has produced, maybe second just after Sachin. And the bloke's come a long way up the echelons of Indian cricket from what was practically one of the worst states to play cricket from.

Posted by   on (November 22, 2012, 20:32 GMT)

I think India's most memorable overseas wins was under Dravid's captaincy - series wins in Eng, WI (without Sachin), drawn series in SA. Kumble's test wins in Aus are also memorable. Under Ganguly, we lost test even against Zimababwe. Ganguly's biggest mistake in overseas tests as captain was not to play Kumble in the eleven who was at his peak then. Sachin as captain managed to get better overseas draw to loss ratio.

Posted by   on (November 22, 2012, 17:53 GMT)

This man just asked for a pitch with some bounce and a little quick but everybody is reacting on this like if he's asked for a rank turner. The problem is almost all the people are equipped with the ideas of low and slow tracks when it comes to India, and bear this in mind a low and slow track is as unfriendly for a spinner as for a pacer. all the bowlers want some zip and quick swing/turn of the ball off the pitch. so there's nothing wrong what Dhoni is insisting on. When it comes to Australia, England, South Africa there pace assisting wickets are termed as their specialties, so what's wrong with Indian specialty of pitches with some quick turn and bounce. Even the pacers would enjoy bowling on a wicket with some bounce rather than bouncing twice before reaching the keeper.

Posted by Sultan2007 on (November 22, 2012, 17:11 GMT)

I am not sure I agree entirely that Ganguly was building a team. sachin, Dravid and Laxman had done enough to prove their class. Kumble/Srinath were well entrenched also. It was actually a team in ascendancy. It is true that his contribution will always be in instilling the self belief in the team. Dhoni on the other hand has faced a team in transition. The Big 4 have actually exceeded expectation in terms of their performance in the last several years (excepting 2011). They could have faded earlier. I would go as far as saying that he has has to deal with a Team in decline. He has actually done a darn good job with the resources at his disposal - sluggish fielding/non penetrative bowling - especially overseas and batting which hasnt always reliable. I dare say the last memorable bowling performance that India last enjoyed overseas was in England with Zaheer and RP in peak form

Posted by Unmesh_cric on (November 22, 2012, 15:47 GMT)

The term 'successful' captain should not be defined only by the numbers of wins. It should be defined by win/loss ratio. I am sure the win/loss ratio for Ganguly outside Asia is much better than Dhoni. India never lost 4-0 overseas under Ganguly. It was 1-1 in England and 1-1 in Australia under Ganguly. India drew a lot of overseas Tests and won a few too under Ganguly. India were no more 'tigers at home and sheeps overseas'. But all the good work that was done overseas under Ganguly has been undone by this 8-0 under Dhoni. India are back to being 'poor travelers'. Ganguly took a lot of pride in overseas performances in Tests. I don't get that impression from Dhoni. Dhoni seems to be happy as long as we are doing good in limited overs crickets and winning Tests at home.

Posted by TATTUs on (November 22, 2012, 15:12 GMT)

Ganguly vs Dhoni? The field that Dhoni set on day 5 in Ahemadabad sums his TEST captaincy up. I would prefer Ganguly any day. Dhoni is sort of default captaincy. Same fields same team and he knows he will win more than he loses.

Ganguly tries to win more.

Posted by   on (November 22, 2012, 15:12 GMT)

I would like to also point out that under Ganguly the three tests India won outside Asia were: 1) Against a west indies side which has the likes of Carl Hooper and Brian Lara at port of Spain 2) Against a strong England side on a seaming pitch at Headingly by an innings 3) Against a strong Australian side at Adelaide. On the other hand out of Dhoni's 3 wins outside Asia one was against a very weak West Indies side without the likes of people like Gayle, one was against a weak NZ side. The only notable victory was against a Strong South African side at Durban. Moreover Dhoni was blanked 0-4 by an Australian side in a rebuilding phase while Ganguly was able to draw the test series against a much more stronger Australian side.

Posted by Full-Blooded-Wallop on (November 22, 2012, 15:10 GMT)

Ganguly 21 wins in 49 matches. Dhoni 20 wins in 40. Ganguly 3 wins outside Asia(barring zimb) Dhoni 3 wins outside Asia in less number of matches captained. Ganguly got great likes Dravid, Laxman and Sachin ,Kumble and Srinath already established players and great form. Dhoni got ageing greats and many of them have retired too now. Gnaguly's era saw emergence of Sehwag, Bhajji , Zaheer and Irfan. Dhoni's era has saw emergence of Kohli, Pujara, Ashwin, Ojha and Umesh. And Dhoni's bowling attack of rookies and half fit zaheer is miles behind ganguly's attack of kumble,bhajji and irfan in top form...but yet he is on the verge of winning most number of matches for India. Dhoni never got a chance to build team due to that he has got a chance we have already seen two future greats in kohli and pujara. 10 years down the line when someone else will captain, would you say he is just carrying on the team built by Dhoni? But no, Ganguly is the best captain, Dhoni simply was lucky!!

Posted by sideee on (November 22, 2012, 14:53 GMT)

Sid Monga loves to criticize Dhoni. Even in the article "Dhoni right to bemoan slow pitches" he finished off saying "Dhoni the keeper will have to raise his game drastically: his missed stumpings, especially that of Nick Compton when he wasn't even expecting the ball to come to him, didn't make for good viewing. That, though, is a story for another day.". Totally out of context. Still, he has to have that there. I am not saying it is incorrect to criticize. However, he seems like one of those people who have a mindset. If Dhoni's on field calls pay off "He is so lucky", if they don't workout - "He is such a poor captain". Not an "unlucky captain", but a poor one.

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