Former India skipper MS Dhoni was close to 100 Test appearances before he suddenly announced retirement from the longest format. Dhoni, who played 90 Test matches for India, quit red-ball cricket in the middle of the Australia tour in 2014.
India’s head coach Ravi Shastri called Dhoni brave and selfless for his unforeseen decision to give up the format. Dhoni continued to play limited-overs cricket and retired from international cricket in 2020.
“MS was India’s, in fact, the world’s, biggest player then with three ICC trophies under his belt, including two World Cups, and some very impressive silverware from the IPL. His form was good, and he was just 10 matches shy of completing 100 Tests,” wrote Shastri in his book “Stargazing: The players in my life” which was released recently.
“Still one of the top-three fittest players on the team, he would have the opportunity to boost his career stats if nothing else. True, he wasn’t getting any younger, but he wasn’t that old either! His decision just didn’t make sense,” he further wrote.
Shastri, the then team director, revealed he had tried to change Dhoni’s decision but the former India skipper was firm on his decision. He now feels the decision was a correct and brave one.
“All cricketers say landmarks and milestones don’t matter, but some do. I approached the issue in a roundabout way, probing for an opening to make him change his mind. But there was a firmness to MS’s tone that stopped me from pushing the matter any further. Looking back, I think his decision was correct; also brave and selfless,” he wrote.
“Giving up on the most powerful position in cricket in the world, in a way, couldn’t have been easy.”
The 59-year-old also praised Dhoni’s fast hands behind the wickets. The ex-India wicket-keeper batsman is among the three cricketers to have made over 800 dismissals as a keeper in international cricket.
“MS is an unorthodox cricketer. His technique, in front of and behind the stumps, is not easily replicable. My suggestion to youngsters is don’t try imitating him unless it comes naturally. What made him so successful were his splendid hands. They were quicker than a pickpocket’s! No other wicketkeeper, at least in the era MS has played, was that fast. He was the best in the world for a long while, and in white-ball cricket by a long distance,” Shastri wrote further of Dhoni.
“MS was sharp in his observation of whatever was happening on the field, and uncanny when it came to taking decisions based on ‘reading’ the trend of play. This quality of his went unnoticed simply because he made such few mistakes. His success with the Decision Review System shows not just fine judgment, but also how well he would be positioned behind the stumps to make the call.”
Dhoni is among the most influential Indian cricketers and Shastri picked him as one of the three most impactful Indian cricketers along with Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev.
“MS’s impact on Indian cricket has been enormous. As a player, he is in the same league as Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev where multi-format excellence is concerned. (Virat Kohli, if he sustains form for the next few years, will be included in this club, but I can’t think of a fourth right now.) Yet, this hardly looked likely when he first came on the international scene.”