Dravid: Dhoni needs to take risks to win overseas
Rahul Dravid has said that MS Dhoni's captaincy has been "defensive in critical situations". Speaking to ESPNcricinfo after the Wellington Test, which ended in a draw after India had been in a dominant position on day three, Dravid said Dhoni would need to take more risks to win Tests overseas.
"I think he [Dhoni] doesn't trust his bowling attack as much as I think he should," Dravid said. "I saw that even in the Test match in Durban, where he didn't take the new ball till 146 overs. In fact he was forced to take the new ball. He didn't trust his fast bowlers to be able to take wickets. He kept playing with the older ball because he wanted to control the runs. So I think that is a slightly defensive mindset that he's got into.
"I think he's got to realise this very quickly, that if he wants to win Test matches abroad, he's got to risk it all. He's got to take that chance that he's going to have to lose some Test matches. The only way you can win abroad is to take a few risks, take a few gambles."
Overseas, Dhoni has captained India in 23 Tests, of which they have won five, lost 11 and drawn seven. At home, his record is much better - 21 wins, three defeats and six draws. Asked if he should continue as Test captain, given India's upcoming Test tours to England and Australia, Dravid said Dhoni deserved a chance to set his record right.
"I've always seen this year of Indian cricket as these four big overseas tours, which is South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia, with the World Cup next year in Australia," Dravid said. "Let's presume that Dhoni is going to be India's one-day captain and take India into that World Cup. I think he's earned the right to do that.
"In Test matches, I always saw these four Test [tours] as Dhoni's opportunity to redeem what has been a pretty poor overseas record for him as captain. He's achieved everything else. He's won one-day tournaments, he's won a World Cup, Champions Trophy, he's taken India to No. 1, he has a great record in India, [he] just hasn't had the results outside of India. And I think he deserves the right, the chance to play out this year, and assess it at the end of the Australian series. End of that series, we'll really know where Indian cricket stands and where Dhoni stands, both as a player and as a captain.
"But so far, look, there have been a few disappointments in the way he's not been able to win, I guess, two Test matches in the last four, [having] been in really really strong positions, but look, you can't always blame him. It also comes down to the quality of bowling attack that he has, and yes, so I'd like him to have an opportunity to be able to correct that poor overseas record."
Martin Crowe, the former New Zealand captain, said it might help India's chances of defending the World Cup if Dhoni steps down as Test captain and hands over the reins to Virat Kohli.
"The first thing I think you must do with any side, particularly a Test side, is you must pick the best team," Crowe said. "And then once you've picked your best team, you pick your best captain from that team. So I guess I throw out the question that if you didn't want Dhoni as your captain, then who would it be, and I think Virat Kohli is perhaps a little too young for that. I think he needs to get through the next World Cup.
"However, I would say that if India want to defend the next World Cup, I think MS Dhoni needs a rest somewhere, at some point, not necessarily from playing, but maybe it could be by not captaining the Test side for a period leading into the World Cup, to refresh him so that he can hit the ground running for that World Cup. So there's a couple of things to ponder there. I think he's an absolutely gifted player, a marvel at times, given all the formats that he plays, but I do wonder sometimes about how he regards Test cricket. Just a point that I'd like to throw in there. Overall, MS Dhoni is an incredible cricketer, and I think that the main fact is that he probably can't keep doing every format from here on in."
Dravid agreed that Kohli had the credentials to captain the side, but said it might be better for him to take over after the tours of England and Australia.
"I think that World Cup is going to be the watershed moment, and two big series in England and Australia, and after that I believe it will be time for [Dhoni], both personally and for Indian cricket, to assess whether it's time for a new man to take over," Dravid said. "Luckily, in some ways, we've got Virat Kohli, who's playing beautifully, so it's not that you don't have somebody waiting in the wings.
"You've got a young player who has, by all accounts, led before. He's led India Under-19 before, he's led Delhi before, he's led North Zone, he's got leadership experience. It's just that he needs to, like Marty [Crowe] said, establish himself little more as a player and by the time, come World Cup, with two more tough series of England and Australia behind his back, and hopefully with runs behind his back, I thInk he'll be ready to take over."