MS Dhoni, the "Captain Cool", is feeling the heat. And rightly so. Not long ago, he was hailed as one of the greatest captains of India. Sure, he has proved that, but in the shorter formats of the game. When Dhoni offered to quit if there was a better person to lead India in Tests, he might have seriously thought of relinquishing the throne since he has not enjoyed a good run in matches abroad.
Dhoni could have avoided his comments on Test captaincy in Sydney on Tuesday as there is plenty of time left before India think of five-day matches this year. May be Dhoni had to speak on the subject since there was a lot of pressure on him after India's drubbing Down Under.
If you look at Dhoni's record as a captain in matches abroad, he holds a none-too-impressive record. In 19 contests outside India, the 30-year-old has lost nine and won five with five draws. India were beaten four times in England, three in Australia, one each in South Africa and Sri Lanka when Dhoni was in charge.
Of those five victories, two have come in the subcontinent, a win each against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The other three happened in South Africa, New Zealand and against the West Indies.
Dhoni, the leader, is very impressive in India. He has achieved success in 12 home Tests of the 18. Five of those did not produce a result. He has only one defeat in India, that came in Nagpur in February 2010, when South African Dale Steyn dismantled the batting with a match haul of 10 wickets.
It is a worrying factor that Dhoni's leadership skills are not working in foreign conditions. He lost all four Tests in England last year for a 4-0 whitewash. However, injuries played a part in that series and Dhoni cannot be blamed for that.
Much was expected by Dhoni and company in Australia but batting woes let the team down. Dhoni was captaining the side for the first time in Australia and he did not do enough to lift the spirits of the team. His defensive tactics came in for criticism and also his batting.
His overall captaincy record in 37 Tests is 17 wins and 10 losses and 10 draws.
Dhoni, the batsman too is found wanting when he leaves India. In 19 away Tests, he averages just 33.44 with no century. He has a highest score of 90 in South Africa. The next is 89 in Bangladesh. He has scored 970 runs in 19 Tests while he has accumulated 1117 runs in India at an average of 50.77 with four tons. In 37 Tests as captain he has 2087 runs at 40.92.
There is no denying the fact that Dhoni is not at ease when performing on non-slow Indian tracks in the five-day version.
It is only in Tests that Dhoni and the rest are not delivering. In the 112 One Dayers he has captained India, Dhoni has won 64 and lost 38 with two ties and eight no results. His batting average is 56.61 with 4,020 runs in those matches. And he was the one who steered the country to World Cup triumph after 28 years.
His trophy cabinet is complete as far as abridged formats of the game are concerned. Dhoni has World Twenty20, Indian Premier League and Champions League sliverware to boast of and above all the ultimate prize of World Cup. However, there have not been many Test series wins outside of the subcontinent barring New Zealand and West Indies. A series success in South Africa and Australia has remained just a dream for a long time.
It was when Sourav Ganguly took charge of the team and John Wright as the coach, India started winning abroad consistently. Ganguly and Wright were instrumental in transforming India. To their advantage, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag produced the necessary runs while the bowlers, led by Anil Kumble delivered with the ball.
With an ageing middle order and no back spinner to rescue Dhoni, it is tougher for the captain.
Indian cricketers will not enter the field in white clothing in the near future as there are a few months away for the next Test series. Till then Board and Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Dhoni can decide what is the best way to take India forward in the Test arena.
Whether Dhoni can continue and fix his ordinary away Test record will not been known in the near future. Team India's next Test series is at home when New Zealand arrive in September.
At this point in time where the India's golden generation of batsmen are headed for the exit door, it will be a real challenge to find suitable replacements for them. Once Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman quit, it will make the captain's job even tougher.
Virat Kohli, who led India to Under-19 World Cup triumph, might be the right choice to be the next Test captain. If Dhoni decides to relinquish the throne, Kohli should be elevated.