Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Greatest Cricket Captain of the last 4 decades - Part 1

I came across a very interesting blog discussing who the greatest captain has been since the post-packer era. While the author discussed the likes of Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Mark Taylor, and Steve Waugh, the readers gave their own views and bounced off names like Imran Khan, Allan Border, Saurav Ganguly, Mike Brearly, and Stephen Fleming. The author concluded that Lloyd and Richards ranked ahead of Taylor and Waugh but left it to the readers to decide between the two great West Indians.

The author's basis of ranking the West Indians above the Australians was that they led more invincible sides, i.e. lost a lesser number of test series. Is that the correct criteria? According Mikesiva, it is, but it got me pondering. Do we judge captains on who has a higher win ratio or who lost fewer series? Or do we judge them on intangibles such as who was a good leader of men - Who managed the teams better? Or who converted mediocre players into world beaters? I guess its a combination of all factors.

I think a combination of win ratios, performance of the player as a captain, and his performance in the wins spells out a good criteria to judge who the best captain is. There is no way to measure the intangibles, but as you will see, those regarded as the best leaders of men, have very low win ratios thus counting them out of the race.
If one were to judge based on the highest win ratios then Ricky Ponting (77%) and Steve Waugh (72%) head the table. While Steve Waugh can definitely be counted as one of the best leaders, I don't feel the same way about Ricky Ponting since he inherited a world beating team from the former.

If you look for intangibles such as best motivators, or those who created champion teams, then the likes of Allan Border and Imran Khan come to mind, but their win ratios are very low - 34% and 29% respectively and don't feature in the top 10 win ratios of captains since 1965.
Stephen Fleming and Saurav Ganguly also fit into this category of leaders with intangible qualities. However, neither, with ratios of 35% and 43% respectively, features in the top 10 list. While Fleming converted average individuals into a good team, Ganguly achieved what no other international captain has been able to in the last decade or so - beating Australia in a test series and holding them to a draw in another.
While Mikesiva thinks Lloyd and Richards, I tend towards Waugh because of his higher win ratio coupled with the fact that he converted the Aussies into a ruthless and invincible unit, something Mikesiva says is essential to term one as the 'best captain'. But I still don't have my definite answer - I will though in subsequent parts to this where I will compare the other criterions I mention.
There are a number of names in the list above, who have not been discussed and I intend to do that in Part 2. Stay tuned for that, but in the meantime, do give me your opinion about who you think is the best cricket captain to have played during the period discussed?

Make your pitch on this post...

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2 Pitched:

  1. Soulberry said...

    Hi Q, this is my first visit here and I must admit I'm glad I came here. This is a fine blog indeed!

    The intangibles are blazingly obvious to cricket followers but are difficult to quantify and incorporate into stats. They also have to bear the cross of subjectivity. Yet we must talk about them alongwith bare stats.

    I have been thinking about this as the views began to come in. You may be aware from my responses that I rate AB, Clive, Imran,Ranatunga and Ganguly as one of the recent best captains. They were instrumental in not just re-building teams but also led by example....of course, as regards that, some did better than others.

    But I've been thinking on. What happened to the teams these people built up after them? What did others do with the same personnel afterwards, and in some cases (like Ganguly and Ranatunga)before them?

    The answers to the above questions would also add a new light to the captaincy debate.

    Most teams dipped after the respective captains' tenure came to an end. They dipped in performance and stats. (Dravid is perhaps a minor exception here)

    But the Australian teams since AB grew from strength to strength. This is another of that intangibles that must be considered - the ability to maintain/carry forward an organisation is also an intangible that I feel must be factored.

    It is here that Taylor, Waugh and Ricky step forward (and as I mentioned, Dravid too in his brief stint). To carry forward a team carefully built up and nurtured isn't easyeither. Not many have been able to do this successfully. The Aussie trio managed to do that rather well. We can see that from the figures (which you so kindly put up for us) as well as by watching the teams evolve themselves.

    The careful change of personnel when needed and the difficult art of taking over a team perhaps loyal/accustomed to, to the predecessor, isn't always easy or workable. This may be where the intangibles actually help Ricky, Waugh and Taylor.

    I chose to focus on another aspect of the subjective but instinctive image we form of a captain. I'm sure as you post the succeeding parts of this article, my thoughts would also evolve alongside! Cheers!

    Off Topic -

    The India Pakistan series has begun rather quietly despite all the crowds that thronged the airport yesterday and Kotla today. I stopped by for about an hour (all I could spare today and entry was free)....too much recent cricket has perhaps made people reserve their energies for the matches to follow. There was a good crowd at Kotla.

  2. Q said...

    Thanks for visiting the blog soulberry, gald u like it. For the India-pak series, see the blog by Obaid where he wonders why people aren't talking about it as much:

    Back to the captaincy debate. I agree that intangibles need to be considered but there should also be some criteria using which one should be able to judge who was the best. Hence I developed some as I mentioned in the blog. It might not be the best measures to use but I feel it will give a clearer picture.

    I agree with your points on Imran, Clive, and Ganguly in the comments I read on TWCJ...But about AB, I disagree.

    First to AB. I agree that AB was a good captain. He took over Australia in 1985 when Australian cricket was in tatters after losing a number of players to retirement and a rebel tour to SA, for whom they has no replacements.

    AB captained a weak Australian team to start off, which had turned into a strong unit by the time he retired but I give larger part of the credit for that transformation to 'Cricket Australia' known as the ACB back then.

    In order to avoid a situation of 'no replacements' in the future, it was the ACB that decided to restructure their board and domestic cricket. It was that step taken by the ACB over 2 decades ago that has resulted in Australia being the supreme force that they are today.

    AB definitely played a role during that time and achieved a lot as captain but to term him as one of the best is not something I would do. He achieved what he did cause of the backing of his strong board, while the likes of Imran Khan and Ganguly built their teams by fighting against the boards for the inclusion of players they thought will bring them the victories.

    The Aussie captains since Border have not held the powers that other captains have - they don't even get to select the playing XI for a test - the selectors do that. The selectors even decide the batting order for a test match. Majority of the credit for Australia's dominance in world cricket needs to be given to "Cricket Australia" and not to the captains.

    Steve Waugh, however is a different case. The way he lead the Australians was distinctly different from Border, Taylor, and Ponting. He turned the Australians from a very good team to ruthless champions. He instilled the motivation in the Aussies to do well in dead matches as well. He fought against the board to bring back Martyn, Hayden, and Langer, who had all made their debuts under Taylor but had been dropped subsequently.

    Waughs record speaks for itself, something that ABs and Taylor's doesn't. Ponting, the only captain with a better record, inherited Waugh's team and thats the only reason why i don't rate him that highly.

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