HomeCricketThe art of being a cricket captain- Most coveted,...

The art of being a cricket captain- Most coveted, yet greatly feared

- Advertisement -

It is the poisoned chalice craved by everyone but successfully sipped by a select few. Captaincy in cricket is a unique assignment in the world of sports. Nowhere else will you find the designated skipper given such control of all aspects of the game including tactics, man-management and decision-making. With one of India’s most successful captains MS Dhoni hanging up his boots, it seemed the right moment to delve into the intricacies of the role and its impact on the game was here.

Compare it with the most popular sport in the world, and you will discover that the role of the captain is starkly different, with tactical calls being made by the manager/head coach.

- Advertisement -

When the team hits the point of no return, it is the manager who gets the sack in football. When it comes to cricket, the axe inevitably falls on the captain.

Sometimes, the cross is too difficult to bear for otherwise great talents of the game. His form plummets, the team hits a downhill trajectory. The world is suddenly a dark, dark place.

Striking examples of such instances are dime a dozen in the annals of the sport. Ian Botham once quit the captaincy within a year to hand it back to the previous incumbent Mike Brearley. Like magic, Botham rediscovered his form and England claimed the Ashes.

Closer home, Sachin Tendulkar was a more reluctant captain and took the team into the realm of mediocrity, quitting the captaincy after a dissatisfying tour of Australia. Tendulkar’s era as India captain was starkly different from his gargantuan exploits with the willow. There were a few bright spots but a lot of darkness.

Tendulkar’s personality seemed a bit too inward-looking to successfully manage a complex team formed by a curious admixture of culture, language, and indeed economic and social status.

Successful captain?

Should statistics be the only marker of a successful cricket captain? Are numbers and results the only determinants? Or are more complex and layered analysis required?

While one cannot argue against the win percentage and tournament success, the art of captaincy transcends the world of mathematics to enter more subjective realms.

Consider the case of Brearley, deemed by many to be one of the best captains the world of cricket has produced. Brearley is trained in psychoanalysis and often touted to have had a degree in people.

His man-management skills and shrewd tactical sense were exemplary. And, despite coming into the England set-up at an advanced age, Brearley was the England skipper in most of the 39 Tests he played.

Indeed, one may argue that Brearley was picked in the team as a specialist captain and would not have been persisted with had he not been leading the side. He never hit a Test century and had a modest average of around 22 in his career. Yet, captain Brearley’s legacy lives on.

The aura of a legendary skipper transcends mere numbers as already stated. Somebody like a Tiger Pataudi won only eight Tests but is definitely one of the best captains the Indian team has had. Pataudi, in contrast to Brearley, took over the job at a very young age and forged the team unity from which successive generations benefitted. He also changed the mindset of the team, moulding it according to his own mental makeup, making India more attack-minded and less circumspect.

Team in his image

As pointed out in the instance of Sachin Tendulkar, the best player in the team is not always the right person to lead it. Often, the captain is the most inspiring and unifying force in the side.

Douglas Jardine, who used Harold Larwood to engineer the tactics known as bodyline, an infamous and dangerous strategy in the age before helmets, didn’t find unanimous acceptance for his methods to tackle the prowess of Don Bradman, Bill Woodfull and Co., but his wards were united in their support of him.

Sourav Ganguly, who took over the reins in a tumultuous time for Indian cricket battered by the match-fixing scandal, showed great ability in building a team and backing talent.

Ganguly’s inherent aggressiveness rubbed off on the team and the players could once again hold their heads high on the world stage. The team began winning abroad and managed to do well in ICC tournaments.

MS Dhoni inherited this rejuvenated lot and managed to create a cohesive unit full of youngsters that Ganguly had backed such as Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Asish Nehra and packed with veritable superstars such as Sachin Tendulkar and up-and-comers like Virat Kohli to the summit of the game.

Though both great players in their own right, Ganguly and Dhoni’s biggest achievement was to unify the team according to their personalities and get the best out of the players.

Often, both took calculated gambles that paid off. However, they are starkly different personalities and the teams they led were also subtly different. Ganguly’s boys were full of zest, Dhoni, the proverbial captain cool, led a team with understated swagger.

Virat Kohli, with a 70 per cent win record trumping his illustrious predecessors, has done his best work in creating a deadly pace attack, the best that has ever worn the India jersey. Combined with the batting prowess that he and his compatriots possess, Kohli has created a behemoth that can overcome the few tactical deficiencies the team suffers from. However, ICC tournaments still remain their Achilles Heel with India suffering heartbreaks in crucial knockout games.

As good as team?

An old adage goes that a captain is only as good as his team. Viv Richards and Ricky Ponting captained champion sides full of legends to the apex of the game. So what kind of difference does the skipper make? Can he turn an average team into world beaters with his influence?

Richie Benaud said that captaincy is 90 per cent luck and 10 per cent skill. But that 10 per cent can often be crucial. Often, it takes generations for great teams to be forged. Ponting continued the project began by Allan Border and passed on through Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh. Kohli is, arguably, reaping the fruits of the tectonic shifts brought in by Ganguly and Dhoni.

Often, rise and fall in cricket is cyclical. Look at the current West Indies team that Jason Holder is trying to rebuild or the talented but erratic Pakistan side led by Azhar Ali. The Richards or the Imran Khan era is a thing of the past, at least for now.

Is the stress, the tension, the thankless and unforgiving hours worth it? Former England captain Nasser Hussain thinks it is. Because once you captain the nation, you are forever remembered for those years that you put in as the leader of the team. You are part of a tradition and leave behind an indelible mark and a personal legacy that cannot be replicated by any other achievement.

Follow us on facebook for more sports news & updates

- Advertisement -

15 Highly Educated Cricketers Of All Time

Cricket is a game of passion and dedication. A sport in which one involves themselves in camps and practice since early childhood. Due to...

Do we often under-appreciate Andy Flower? What’s his legacy?

There's a hint of sadness in noting that Zimbabwe has never been a dominant power in world cricket. But nothing could be sadder than...

Why are more and more MotoGP riders using the Noson nasal dilator?

Introduction MotoGP riders or athletes are physically fit and healthy individuals and their muscles are continuously functioning and used during the performance. As a fan...

How Come UFC Fighters Have Cauliflower Ears But Boxers Don’t?

The UFC has come a long way since its early days, wherein the fights seemed like modern-day gladiators due to its brutality and inconsistent...

5 spinners who can be India’s potential finger-spinners

The Indian cricket team has always been proud of its ability to produce world-class batsmen and similarly potent spinners. Though in recent times, the...

IPL 2018: The beautiful Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur

Being seated in the Sawai Mansingh stadium brings a different world, a world of difference away from the palpable excitement of watching truly India’s...

Top 5 Left Wingers In The World, Based On 2019-20 Season

Owing to the fact that football has evolved a lot since its inception and the tactics have changed a lot, the role of wingers...

The astonishing decline of Mario Balotelli

There was a time when Mario Balotelli was on top of the world.  The Italian talisman had scored two goals in the Euro 2012 semi-finals,...

What can be expected from the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix?

Heat in the air and heat inside the car- that's been the story of the Azerbaijan Grand prix. As F1 parks itself at Baku...

How Suresh Raina Batted India Into The Finals of 2011 World Cup

Its been 9 years, since India won the Cricket World Cup defeating Sri Lanka on 2 April, 2011. The images and visuals of...

IPL 2018: The best from the West Indies

When one of nature's treacherous attacks on mankind- earthquakes- strike, their impact is measured on Richter's scale. When West Indians strike in a tournament...

Ajax XI if they didn’t sell their star players

Based in Amsterdam, AFC Ajax, who incidentally draw their name from the legendary Greek hero of the same name, are the most successful club...

Age Fraud in Indian Cricket: Are players really to be blamed?

There have been times while watching a cricket match when we tend to hear commentators comment on cricketers’ age. We as fans have many...

Big change for India Women’s cricket as BCCI looks to finalise bowling coach soon

We are not even at the halfway stage of the 2018 cricketing season. It clearly seems there's no stopping India's women's cricket team. The...

5 famous players to play for both Leeds United and Liverpool

Leeds United are back in the Premier League after 16 years and will play Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday in their very first match...

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -