Already the captain of the T20 and ODI Teams by then, MS Dhoni was deputy to Anil Kumble in the five-day format. However, owing to an injury, Kumble had to miss this game of the home series against South Africa. Hence, on 11th April 2008 in Kanpur, MS Dhoni captained for the first time in Test cricket. It was the first time that a wicket-keeper was skippering India in a red-ball game. A few days later, after Kumble announced his retirement, Dhoni was appointed as the full-time Test captain.
India was down by one game in the series, and the team did not have the services of Anil Kumble and Sachin Tendulkar. The pitch was a turner, and MSD had to suffice with the likes of Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla as the lead spinners. Along with using the part-time spinners effectively, Dhoni helped India to an eight-wicket win in the game. Since then and until the end of his Test career in Australia, MSD won 26 more tests as India’s captain.
Openers: Wasim Jaffer and Virender Sehwag
Wasim Jaffer and Virender Sehwag were the openers of the XI when MS Dhoni captained for the first time in Test cricket. A contrasting duo, the openers had started well in the series. They had got a double-century partnership in Chepauk in the first game, the same encounter in which Sehwag got his triple hundred.
However, in this game, Jaffer and Viru had little to contribute. While Jaffer scored a 15 and a 10, the Delhi opener managed scores of 8 and 22 only. That said, Sehwag picked up four wickets in the game and was useful for Dhoni in Kumble’s absence.
Middle-Order: Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly, and MS Dhoni (C&WK)
It was the legendary middle-order for Team India, which was in operation when MS Dhoni captained for the first time in Test cricket. However, Sachin Tendulkar was missing this game. It was the first time since 1990 that both Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble were not playing a Test game in India.
The contributions from the middle-order helped India win this game. Dravid, Laxman, and Ganguly got scores of 29, 50 and 87 in the first innings, which was sufficient for India to negate South Africa’s first innings total of 265. Dhoni also got a 32 in this game, the primary purpose of which was to elongate India’s lead over the Proteas.
All-Rounders: Yuvraj Singh
Yuvraj Singh came in place of Irfan Pathan for this encounter. In Anil Kumble’s absence, Yuvi was seen as India’s third spin option. At the same time, he was looked at as someone who could improve the batting depth, considering the team had a disastrous batting show in the previous game. It was Yuvi’s 23rd Test game, and he returned with a score of 32 in the first innings and a solitary wicket of Graeme Smith in the first innings.
Bowlers: Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla, S Sreesanth, and Ishant Sharma
India changed their bowling combination for this game. While they replaced RP Singh with Ishant Sharma, Piyush Chawla came in place of Anil Kumble. Piyush had made his debut in 2006, and it was two years later that he got this chance. However, he only played one more Test game for India after this encounter.
The bowlers had a good outing in this game. Ishant picked a total of five wickets while the leader of the spin attack – Harbhajan Singh, returned with seven scalps. Piyush and Sreesanth, though, could contribute with two and one wickets, respectively. Sreesanth also scored 29 runs in the first innings.