MS Dhoni has always done it his way. Therefore, when he sent shockwaves through Indian cricket by retiring from the Test format in the middle of a series in Australia six years ago, there was disbelief, but there was also a sentiment that this was the only way he could be walking into the sunset.
And so, hours after saving the 2014 Boxing Day Test with an unbeaten 24 on the last day at the MCG, Dhoni — then the most successful Indian Test captain — also became the youngest Indian Test cricketer to announce his retirement.
True to style, there was no inkling of the bombshell that was to follow at the post-match press conference.
He spoke about a variety of issues, even saying he would have been ready to play out the remaining four overs of the day. “Maybe they were too tired to bowl four overs,” he said before adding, “That’s a very Aussie answer I have given. Generally I would say ok, ok.” He then laughed. So did everyone else in the room. He was being his usually witty self. Nobody could have guessed that he had been through one of the most emotional moments of his life just minutes ago.
Between the end of the Test and the press conference, there had been a few seismic shocks sent through Indian cricket. Dhoni had reportedly conveyed a “very important message” to BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel. He had then held a tear-eyed team meeting, where he had conveyed the decision that would shock the rest of the world 45 minutes later.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) then shortly released a press release, stating that Dhoni is retiring from Test cricket and citing “the strain of playing all formats” as the reason behind his decision.
“One of India’s greatest Test captains under whose leadership India became the No. 1 team in the test rankings, MS Dhoni, has decided to retire from Test cricket citing the strain of playing all formats of cricket,” the board said. “BCCI, while respecting the decision of MS Dhoni to retire from Test cricket, wishes to thank him for his enormous contribution to Test cricket and the laurels that he has brought to India. Virat Kohli will be the captain of the Indian team for the fourth and final Test against Australia to be played in Sydney.”
The news of Dhoni’s retirement was accompanied by the news that India was entering a new era, under captain Virat Kohli, and there was also the last Test of the Australia series coming up.
But there was also the usual post-mortem accompanying Dhoni’s decision to retire. It was noted that he had averaged only 33 in 17 innings that year. ESPNCricinfo said in the news of his retirement that Dhoni’s “wicketkeeping has also deteriorated, in particular his ability to move laterally to take testing catches”.
Since 2011, India under Dhoni had won only two out of 22 away Tests and lost 13. He had led India to the No. 1 Test ranking in 2009, a position they enjoyed until the tour of England in 2011.