The third test between Australia and India in Melbourne failed to deliver a nail-biting finish on Tuesday but ended with a draw tinged with controversy and the shock retirement of long-serving India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni from test cricket.
The result secured Australia a 2-0 series victory with a match in reserve, but their triumph was quickly overtaken by the bombshell that Dhoni had pulled the pin on his 90-test career to concentrate on the shorter formats of the game.
Displaying his usual serenity, the 33-year-old Dhoni said nothing of his retirement plans and the news was broken on the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s Twitter feed only minutes after the final question was asked at the post-match media conference.
Batsman Virat Kohli, long Dhoni’s heir apparent and stand-in skipper during the first test loss in Adelaide, will lead the team for the fourth and final match in Sydney, the BCCI added, capping a surreal day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Dhoni, fittingly, played an important part in his team’s gritty effort to stave off a third straight test defeat on the fifth and final day.
He came in to bat with the team in trouble at 141-5 and grafted an unbeaten 24 after tea. Along with number seven batsman Ravichandran Ashwin, who scored eight, he helped guide the tourists to safety.
Though Dhoni’s effort was praiseworthy, his counterpart Steven Smith’s decision to concede the draw four overs early, rather than push to the end to get the final four wickets for victory, drew jeers from spectators at the ground.
Smith justified the decision, saying his bowlers were “cooked” and his team mates happy enough with the series win.
That came after a late declaration at lunch that also raised eyebrows, with Australia’s bowlers given only 70 overs to find a way to bowl India out on a flat wicket offering little help.
“I don’t think there was still a win there,” Smith told reporters.
“I don’t think we had four wickets in us at the end — there wasn’t much breaking up in the wicket, there wasn’t much going on, so I think that was it.”