Captains in any sport have the added pressure of leadership. They are accountable for the team’s performance. They are celebrated in victories but have to cope with heavy criticism when the team faces a defeat. Therefore, there have been many players who have not been able to withstand the intense scrutiny and pressure of captaincy.
Recently, in international cricket, South African cricket player De Kock handed over the Test captaincy to Dean Elgar after a string of low scores and having not scored a century in around two years.
On their first tour after the change of captaincy, to West Indies, De Kock notched a scintillating hundred in the first test and a fine 96 in the second. His game, post-giving up the captaincy, has been fluent and carefree.
Thus, it is evident that the role of a captain is not as easy as it seems.
On various occasions, team management has decided to split captains across different formats. This is done to reduce and distribute pressure on the players. Greater focus and different strategies stem from a split captaincy format. South Africa and Australia understood the utility of this system early on and implemented it. We look at 5 instances when teams split captaincy between two or more players.
England decided to revitalize their cricket approach post the debacle of the 2015 ICC World Cup. A few months before the World Cup, white ball captaincy was given to Eoin Morgan. He was given the duty to change how England played white-ball cricket. Post-2015 upset, results started to show when England made it to the finals of the 2016 World T20 finals.
England reached the pinnacle of cricketing glory when they lifted the 2019 ICC World Cup under Morgan’s captaincy. His captaincy was in stark contrast to his predecessor’s, Alastair Cook. He inspired the team to play the fearless and attacking brand of cricket. The test captaincy of England is under Joe Root who has built a core group of players and is on the way to success.
After Australia’s Cape Town horror in 2018, Steve Smith and Warner had to serve a one-year ban. Smith was their red ball captain. In order to rebuild the team from scratch, Cricket Australia decided to recall Tim Paine who had not been part of the test set-up for years. He was given the task of rebuilding the team with a new ethos and culture. The ODI and T20 captaincy was handed to Aaron Finch. Finch has been a top-performer in white-ball cricket and has helped the bounce back. His biggest success was when Australia beat India 3-2 in 2019 in ODIs. Paine has been a great leader and successfully returned with the Ashes on his tour to England in 2019.
South Africa went a step ahead in 2014-15 when they split captaincy three ways. Faf du Plessis captained their T20 side whereas AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla captained the ODI and Test sides respectively. All three continue to play all three formats. This arrangement bore fruits for them since they split the captaincy based on the player’s core strength and success record. South Africa made it to the semi-finals of the T20 and the ODI World Cups and narrowly missed out on both occasions.
The BCCI has not been the biggest fan of the split captaincy mechanism and insisted on one man lead the teams in all formats. However, they had to settle for split captaincy when the situation called for it. Dhoni gave up the test captaincy on the 2014 Australia tour when he retired from tests. He continued to play only white-ball cricket. From December 2014 to January 2017, India had Kohli leading the test side whereas Dhoni-led in white ball. In 2017, before the England series, Dhoni decided to hand over the white ball reigns to Kohli and continued to play solely as a player.
The Windies’ white ball and red balls teams bear little resemblance. Their ODI and T20 captaincy was handed over to Kieron Pollard in 2019 with Jason Holder leading the test squad. However, Kraigg Brathwaite has taken over the red ball captaincy after Holder refused to participate in the Bangladesh tests in 202. Pollard has had an instant positive response on the team environment. He has helped bring the Bravos and Russels back. He has instilled confidence in the youngsters and has given hope to fans about a turnaround in the Windies’ fortune.