Captains are the most important entities in any team-based sport and cricket is no exception. A captain of a team in cricket shoulders many responsibilities and that is why captains are picked after much deliberation. Hence, a leader not only formulates strategies and game plans to be used in the middle and improvises on them as per the situation, but the biggest responsibility of a skipper is managing the players on the field. Every player has his pros and cons as per their personality and the captain has to handle them cleverly by converting those traits into a match winner for the team.
Often players are groomed into captaincy, given ample time to show and sharpen their skills while learning from the best. But sometimes it has happened that the management is forced to opt for someone completely new and often the decision backfires.
But sometimes the chosen candidate not only flourishes in the captaincy role but also exceeds the expectations, thereby benefitting the team in the long run and the turbulent times.
Here’s a look at five of those captaincy picks that proved to be absolute masterstrokes:
5. Tim Paine (Australia)
Tim Paine. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Tim Paine made his Australia debut in 2010 but had to miss quite a lot of cricket after sustaining multiple injuries to his finger and even contemplated retirement from the game at one stage. However, as Australia tried multiple options in the wicketkeeping role post Brad Haddin’s retirement, Paine got his opportunity and he grabbed it with both hands.
He kept well and contributed with the bat as well.
However, he became the Australian captain in the most unusual circumstances. Steve Smith, the former Australia captain, David Warner, then Australia vice-captain, and Cameron Bancroft were banned for their involvement in the Sandpaper gate incident in the Cape Town Test against South Africa, back in 2018.
All three copped bans and with no one left, Cricket Australia made Tim Paine the Australia captain. He started poorly as Australia lost the Test series to South Africa. He then lost the ODI series in England and lost the Test series to Pakistan in UAE.
India then thrashed Australia in their backyard for the first time in the 2018-19 series. However, he managed to retain the Ashes series in 2019 in England and won five Tests at home against Pakistan and New Zealand. He also won a Test series against Sri Lanka at home.
However, his tenure came to an abrupt end rather unceremoniously, when he was forced to resign ahead of Ashes 2021, after his s**ting scandal of 2017, came out in the public domain.
4. Sarfaraz Ahmed (Pakistan)
Sarfaraz Ahmed (Photo Source: twitter)
Sarfaraz Ahmed will be remembered as one of the three Pakistani captains to win an ICC tournament. After Imran Khan-led Pakistan won the World Cup in 1992, Younis Khan captained the side to the T20 World Cup 2009 title. Thereafter, it was Sarfaraz under whose captaincy, Pakistan won the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017, in England.
Having made his debut for Pakistan in 2010, Sarfaraz was named the vice-captain of the team in 2015. After the T20 World Cup 2016, was made the T20I captain and shortly after, he took over as ODI captain as well.
He led the team well as Pakistan won 11 consecutive T20 series under his captaincy against teams like West Indies, Australia, New Zealand, England and Zimbabwe, respectively.
Pakistan also white-washed the opponent in a bilateral series on 5 occasions under his captaincy.
Sarfaraz captained Pakistan in 50 ODIs, winning 28 of them. He won 29 out of 37 T20Is he captained Pakistan in. He captained the team in 13 Tests as well, winning 4 and losing 8.
3. Eoin Morgan (England)
Eoin Morgan (Photo Source: Twitter)
Eoin Morgan made his international debut for Ireland in 2006 and moved to England in 2009. After spending some time building up his reputation for the England team, he was named the ODI captain two months before the 2015 World Cup.
However, England performed badly in the tournament, which led to the ECB and Morgan changing the outlook and perspective of the team in terms of white-ball cricket.
Morgan adopted a far more aggressive approach in one-day internationals and T20Is, as England became a team of belligerent power hitters.
More importantly, he created a team that could bat big and bat deep, which is why England is now one of the top limited-overs sides in the world.
He led to team to the final of the T20 World Cup 2016, only to lose to Carlos Brathwaite’s heroics for West Indies. However, the evolution of the England team finally bore fruits when they became only the third team to win the ODI World Cup as hosts, in 2019.
He was called England’s greatest white-ball captain by Nasser Hussain. Morgan captained England in a record 126 ODIs and 72 Twenty20s. His 118 wins as skipper across the two formats is also a record.
2. Graeme Smith (South Africa)
Graeme Smith with Test Mace. (Photo Source: Gettyimages)
South Africa’s Graeme Smith was just 22 years old when he was handed the captaincy of the national side in 2003, in the aftermath of Proteas’ poor performance in that year’s World Cup. He had played only eight Test matches and 22 ODIs before he was handed over the captaincy.
There were other options like Jacques Kallis, Herschelle Gibbs, and others who were senior to him and were not considered for captaincy.
After initial hiccups, he led the South African side and made them a formidable name in both the Tests and the ODI formats, respectively. His best moment came in the Test series against England in 2003, where he slammed 277 and 259 in back-to-back Tests and ended with 714 runs in the series. He was chosen to captain the ICC World XI in the ICC Super Series Test Match between the ICC World XI and Australia in October 2005.
Smith is the only player to captain his side in 108 Tests and 117 Test matches under him during his career. Notably, under his terrific leadership, South Africa won 60 of them. He won 23 out of the 33 T20s in which he captained and recorded 115 wins in 197 one-day internationals.
1. MS Dhoni (India)
MS Dhoni World Cup 2011. (Photo Source: Getty Images)
MS Dhoni is by far the best white-ball captain India has ever had. India not only flourished under his captaincy, but Dhoni remains the only captain to win all three ICC white-ball tournaments in T20 World Cup, the ODI World Cup, and the Champions Trophy.
While discussing captaincy options for the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, seniors like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, and Rahul Dravid excused themselves from this new format.
As a result, Dhoni leapfrogged other candidates like Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh to become captain.
MS Dhoni’s captaincy and ability to remain calm under pressure meant that he became the ODI captain in 2007 and Test captain in 2008. He led the team well and India even reached the no.1 ranking in Tests under his captaincy after winning Test series in New Zealand and West Indies.
MS Dhoni captained India in 60 Tests, winning 27 of them, he captained 200 ODIs, winning 110 and in T20Is he led in 72 matches and won 41 of them.
He stepped down from India captain in Tests in 2014. When he retired from the format and passed the reins to Virat Kohli in limited overs in 2017.