NEW DELHI: India’s World Cup-winning captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni retired Tuesday from Test cricket shortly after his team lost yet another overseas series, this time against Australia.
Dhoni, who is one of the world’s highest-earning sportsman, has chosen “to retire from Test Cricket with immediate effect in order to concentrate” on the 50-over and Twenty20 formats of the game, a statement from Indian cricket authorities said.
Former team-mate and batting legend Sachin Tendulkar was among those paying tribute to Dhoni who was the most successful Test-match skipper in India’s history.
The announcement comes just weeks before India are due to begin their defence of the 50-over World Cup trophy that Dhoni lifted on home soil in 2011.
Star batsman Virat Kohli, who was the vice-captain under Dhoni, will lead the Indian team in the fourth and final Test against Australia that begins in Sydney on January 6.
While India managed to hang on for a draw in the third Test in Melbourne earlier Tuesday, it was not enough to prevent Australia from regaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
The 33-year-old Dhoni, who is also the team’s wicket-keeper, took over as Test skipper in 2008 after a successful spell captaining the one-day and T20 sides.
Under his leadership, India became the top-ranked Test nation in 2009, building on their victory in the inaugural World Twenty20 in South Africa in 2007 in Dhoni’s first outing as captain.
But India have struggled when playing away from home in recent years. The poor record includes two 4-0 whitewashes in England and Australia in 2011 and a 3-1 loss in England earlier this year.
Dhoni was nevertheless India’s most successful Test captain winning 27 of the 60 Tests he led the national side in, with 18 losses and 15 draws.
He scored 4,876 runs during his 90 Test career at an average of 38.09 with six centuries.
But the pressure of being captain, batsman and wicket-keeper in all three formats of the game took its toll amid criticism of his defensive approach in the five-day game.
It was rumoured before the tour of Australia that Dhoni will quit Tests after the series, but his decision to do so even before the Sydney Test surprised many.
Dhoni, who also captained the Chennai Super Kings franchise in the Indian Premier League, was rated by Forbes earlier this year as the fifth richest sportsman in the world with an annual brand value of $20 million.
Record-breaking batsman Tendulkar, who quit Test cricket last year, urged Dhoni to target the World Cup that opens in Australia and New Zealand on February 14.
“Well done on a wonderful career in Test cricket,” Tendulkar tweeted.
“Always enjoyed playing together. Next target 2015 WC my friend!!”
Batting great Sunil Gavaskar said India will miss Dhoni in Test cricket despite the recent criticism.
“India will miss Dhoni big time because he gave a new dimension to Indian cricket,” the former captain told NDTV.
“Over the last year or so, the pressure of captaincy was probably affecting his wicket-keeping. The amount of cricket he was playing probably told on him.”
Another former captain Bishan Bedi said Dhoni’s decision to retire in the midst of a series left him “perplexed.”
“But that’s his prerogative. I wish him happy retirement,” Bedi said.
Noted commentator Harsha Bhogle, meanwhile, tweeted: “If Dhoni says that the strain of playing all forms is telling on him, we should accept and say ‘thank you’.”