“He was a captain I enjoyed playing under,” Dravid told ESPNcricinfo. “One of the things I liked about MS was, what you saw was what you got. Very uncomplicated, always led by example. One of the things I really liked about playing under MS was that he never asked you to do anything that he himself didn’t do.”
Dhoni’s style of leadership was famously hands-off, but Dravid said he won the respect of his teammates with his deeds rather than his words.
“The reality was he was having to transition a senior group of players and build a younger group who were coming through,” Dravid said. “In a sense he was not the most communicative of captains, but he tried to earn your respect by walking the talk. He never took a backward step, and led more by example than by rhetoric or by words. More by actions.”
Dravid hailed the impact Dhoni had made on Indian cricket after emerging from one of its backwaters.
“For someone to come from a small town like Ranchi, to go on and captain India and play 90 Test matches, to do it the way he has, I think he brought a lot of dignity to the job of captaincy,” Dravid said. “He might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he was his own cup of tea and he led with a lot of success and that can never be taken away from him.
“And he’s been an inspiration. If there are kids in small towns today dreaming and aspiring for great things, not only in cricket but in various fields, then MS Dhoni has a lot to do with it.”
Dravid was surprised by the timing of Dhoni’s decision to retire, with one Test still left in the series against Australia, but he said he had expected him to take stock of his future fairly soon.
“I guess it was unexpected that he would do it in the middle of the series,” Dravid said. “I expected him to review it at the end of the series, without India playing Test cricket for the next seven or eight months.
“Knowing MS, if the series was alive, I don’t think he would have taken the decision in the middle of the series, but having seen that the series was already gone, maybe he felt that if he was going to go, then maybe this was the time to do it, and to give Virat Kohli a Test match in Australia to captain, Wriddhiman Saha another opportunity in a Test match, and to start the process of taking India’s Test team forward.”
Starting with the tour of England in 2011, Dhoni won only one Test match overseas. Dravid sympathised with Dhoni for perhaps not having the resources – particularly in the bowling department – to improve his away record.
“If you look at it overall, there was no doubt he was India’s most successful Test captain. The numbers don’t lie,” Dravid said. “There’s no doubt that he didn’t have the best of times, especially over the last four years, in overseas conditions. Maybe it’s also a reflection of the fact that the team was in transition, it was changing times, especially in the bowling department. It’s not easy to captain a team when you don’t have the resources to be able to take 20 wickets.”
Dhoni also attracted criticism for his defensive tactics as captain, and Dravid said those measures might have been forced on him by the resources at his disposal.