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.
Having said that, international cricket has seen many legendary captains. Captains who may not be the best player of the team but one cannot imagine anyone else at the captain. We look at eleven such captains who could make a great playing XI.
The South African captain changed the way that the world viewed South African cricket. He made them a force to reckon with. His grit, tenacity, and aggression rubbed onto the team. South Africa was the best touring country and won series in England (2008), Australia (2008-09 and 12-13), New Zealand (2011-12), and drew 1-1 in India. He also led the team by example and came out to bat in Sydney in 2009 with a broken hand. He was one of South Africa’s most successful captains and led them to no. 1 position in 2012. He would be perfect as the opener.
England’s highest century scorer and one of world cricket’s best batsmen, Cook would take the second opener. Cook’s record in his 59 tests as captain re self-explanatory. He won in India in 2012, reigned in on the Ashes in Australia in 2011, and at home he won the Ashes at home in 2013 and 2015. He marshaled his troops from the front and this was on display when he scored 122 in Mumbai and 192 in Kolkata in their historic 2-1 win in India. His ability to score daddy hundreds makes him a great opening option.
The inaugural WTC winning captain has to be there in the best captaining XI. Williamson forming part of the Fab 4 quartet has been arguably New Zealand’s finest batsman. He has an away victory in England (2021) and Pakistan (2018). He has an average of 54 and has displayed incredible leadership skills for New Zealand as well as SRH whenever the situation has demanded.
King Kohli’s batting needs no introduction and he already has the most test wins for an India. He took India to no. 1 position in 2019 and 2020. He has built probably India’s best bowling attack in years. He has built a team that is not afraid to tour away from home conditions. Indian fans have been left pleasantly surprised to see a bowling quartet on the Indian side. His batting average of 52 and 27 centuries is a testament to his batting prowess. He would be a perfect no. 4.
Dada, as Ganguly is fondly called, would probably be the inspiration for Kohli and his style of captaincy. Aggressive and sharp, Dada defined the new Indian aspirations and led the team with a swagger. He was always up for a battle when touring Down Under or England. It is certain that the 2001 Eden Garden’s test was the turning point for Indian cricket and it was Dada who led a valiant effort to pull off that victory after a follow-on.
Captain cool would be the ideal wicket-keeper of this team. Dhoni’s test record may be pale when compared to others on the list but no one can discount his experience and tactical genius. He made India unbeatable at home and whitewashed Australia in the 2013 series. His glovework is second to none. He is a handy aggressor at no. 6.
Holder has been one of the best all-rounders in world cricket in the last few years. He has been a consistent run-getter and picks up regular wickets. He has redeemed Windies cricket to a large extent and has made them a force to reckon with. He scored a 200 against England when they toured the Caribbean in 2019 and won the series. He would be a perfect all-rounder at 7.
Regarded as one the best swing bowlers to have come out of Pakistan, Akram was a fine captain too. He captained Pakistan in 25 tests and won nearly half of them which is a decent record for a captain. He picked up 107 wickets at the same time averaging 4 a piece. His swing and tail-end batting greatly enthused the spectators and he justifies his position as part of the bowling in the team.
Imran Khan is the legend of pace bowling. Arguably the best swing bowler and a born leader, he enthralled spectators wherever he went. He led Pakistan to the 1992 World Cup glory and also made his side unbeatable at home and away. The notorious Windies of the 80s could not defeat them both in-home and away series.
Kumble was a captain in the most uncertain times for team India. He is the only spinner to have ever captained the side. He took over the baton from Dravid before India finally picked Dhoni as their full-time captain. He could manage only three wins in the 14 matches that he captained but as a bowler, he has been spectacular. With more than 600 wickets he is India’s highest wicket-taker.
The brutal pace that Walsh generated filled the hearts of batsmen with fear. His great build and lethal swing/pace made him a menacing pace bowler. He captained the Windies in the 90s and did not have a remarkable captaincy. He could win only 6 games out of the 20 he captained but his bowling abilities make him an automatic choice for the team.