Mahendra Singh Dhoni turned 33 on Monday. With the five-Test series against England starting in two days' time at Nottingham, Dhoni is in the cusp of what could be his biggest challenge overseas as skipper. Dhoni was the captain when India lost 4-0 in England in 2011. With a rather inexperienced team at his disposal this time, Dhoni will hope his birthday will bring him better luck (read: runs and wickets). He is also poised to become the Indian skipper to have led in most numbers of Tests in England. ('There Will be Serious Questions if Dhoni loses the Test series')
Dhoni's place as Test skipper has been hotly debated in recent times. With Virat Kohli shaping up to be a 'complete' batsman, is he the heir apparent? There are two schools of thought. One that feels Kohli is too inexperienced to handle captaincy and there is no one else to replace Dhoni. The other group feels that Dhoni is an automatic choice purely because he still remains a tactically shrewd leader. With the 'big' boys like Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag gone, Dhoni remains the biggest influence on a young side. (India Beat Derbyshire)
Dhoni has led India against England in England on four occasions prior to the start of the upcoming series. If he leads in all the five Tests, he will establish a new record for leading India in most Tests (nine) against England in England. Mohammed Azharuddin and Ajit Wadekar share the present record of leading India in most Tests against England in England. Both led India in six Tests. (It's Time to Right a Wrong: Ganguly)
Dhoni, who has an aggregate of 220 runs while leading India against England in England need 80 more runs for his 300-run aggregate. If he gets them, Dhoni will then become the fourth Indian captain to score 300-plus runs against England in England. Others are Azharuddin (468), Sourav Ganguly (351) and Vijay Hazare (333) are the others. (I Need no Advice: Kohli)
There are several other records beckoning Dhoni.
Dhoni has scored two half centuries while leading India against England in England. Two more half centuries will give him a total of four half centuries and with it the record of scoring most half centuries by an Indian captain against England in England. Ganguly and Hazare share the present record with three half centuries.
Happy birthday Dhoni bhai. Have a good one :)- Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) July 7, 2014
As a wicketkeeper, Dhoni has an aggregate of 19 dismissals against England in England. Six more dismissals would give him a total of 25 dismissals. He would then become the first Indian keeper to effect 25 or more dismissals against England in England. He would also earn the record for most wicket-keeping dismissals by an Indian keeper against England in England. The present record is held by Kiran More, who has effected 24 dismissals.
Farokh Engineer holds the record for most appearances as an Indian keeper against England in England. He has played nine Tests. Dhoni who has played seven Tests (against England in England) need three more Tests to wrest the record from Engineer.
Dhoni has effected 37 stumping dismissals in his Test career. One more stumping dismissal will make him share the Indian record of most stumping dismissals which is being held by Syed Kirmani. (First Test Pitch May go Easy for Batsmen)
Dhoni's batting will be crucial to India's fortunes in the series. Dhoni has not been among runs in recent times and he needs to justify his position as a batsman too. Dhoni has an aggregate of 4459 runs as a keeper-batsman. He needs 41 runs to reach 4500 and thus becoming the fourth wicket-keeper batsman in Test cricket to score 4500-plus runs. Others are - Adam Gilchrist (5570), Mark Boucher (5515) and Alec Stewart (4540).
Dhoni has an aggregate of 493 runs while leading India against England. He needs seven more runs for his 500-run aggregate. If he gets them, he would then become the sixth Indian captain to score 500-plus runs against England. Others are - Sunil Gavaskar (714), Azharuddin (682), Hazare (680), Wadekar (598) and Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi (577). (Bowling Key for India in England: Dravid)
Dhoni has scored 15 fifties as a wicket-keeper-batsman on away soil. He needs five more fifties to become the first batsman to score 20 fifties as a keeper-batsman on away soil. If he gets them, he would also earn the record of scoring most fifties by a keeper-batsman overseas. The present record is 19 and is held by Alan Knott of England.
(With inputs from HR Gopala Krishna)