Who is the best Test cricket captain of them all?

Nowadays, with a solid support staff, the captain’s decision-making responsibilities are less of a burden. This allows him to fully concentrate on his skills.

Graeme Smith won 53 out of 109 Tests as captain of South Africa.   -  FILE PHOTO/ GETTY IMAGES

 

The captain of a cricket team, at times also referred to as the skipper, is the appointed leader, having several additional roles and responsibilities over and above those of the 10 others in the playing XI. In cricket, the main role of the captain is to act as a sort of intermediary between the coaching staff and the rest of the team. He becomes part player, part selector or even part coach/mentor, and must be able to successfully balance the various pressures that come with the multiple responsibilities.

As in any other sport, the captain is usually the person who is the most experienced in the squad. However, there have been several instances in Test cricket where the captain has been the least experienced member of the squad.

The captain also needs to have good communication skills and is most likely to be a certainty in the playing XI, as he is responsible for the team selection. It is his task to go out for the toss before the start of a match and then take a call as to whether his side bats or fields first. During the match, the captain decides the team’s batting order, which bowler will open the bowling, who are his first and second bowling changes, and where each fielder will be positioned. While the captain has the final say, decisions taken on the field or in the dressing rooms are often collaborative. A captain’s knowledge of the complexities of cricket strategy and tactics, and shrewdness in the field may contribute significantly to the team’s success. Excelling as a cricket captain requires the incumbent to have a thorough understanding of how the game is played, the ability to strategise, and at the same time lead his teammates both on and off the field.

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Nowadays, with the coaching and support staff as part of the squad, the captain’s decision-making responsibilities are less of a burden. This allows him to fully concentrate on his skills, which are either batting or bowling and at times both. However, despite all that, the captain of a cricket team typically shoulders more responsibility for results than team captains in other sports.

Here’s the first part of a statistical review of the captains in Test cricket since 1877.

First captain for each Test side

TeamCaptainOpponentVenueDateResult
AustraliaDave GregoryEnglandMelbourneMarch 15, 1877Won by 45 runs
EnglandJames LillywhiteAustraliaMelbourneMarch 15, 1877Lost by 45 runs
South AfricaOwen DunellEnglandPort ElizabethMarch 12, 1889Lost by 8 wickets
West IndiesKarl NunesEnglandLord’sJune 23, 1928Lost by an innings and 58 runs
New ZealandTom LowryEnglandChristchurchJanuary 10, 1930Lost by 8 wickets
IndiaC. K. NayuduEnglandLord’sJune 25, 1932Lost by 158 runs
PakistanAbdul Hafeez KardarIndiaDelhiOctober 16, 1952Lost by an innings and 70 runs
Sri LankaBandula WarnapuraEnglandColombo (Premadasa)February 17, 1982Lost by 7 wickets
ZimbabweDave HoughtonIndiaHarareNovember 18, 1992Drawn
BangladeshNaimur RahmanIndiaDhakaNovember 10, 2000Lost by 9 wickets
ICC World XIGraeme SmithAustraliaSydneyOctober 14, 2005Lost by 210 runs
IrelandWilliam PorterfieldPakistanDublinMay 12, 2018Lost by 5 wickets
AfghanistanAsghar AfghanIndiaBangaloreJune 14, 2018Lost by an innings and 262 runs

Notes:

1) Dave Gregory of Australia is the first captain to win a toss.

2) Owen Dunnell of South Africa and Asghar Afghan of Afghanistan lost their respective Test matches in two days!

3) Ireland’s opening day in Test cricket (May 11, 2018) was washed out because of rain. Play began the next day.

Most Tests as captain

TestsCaptainTeamPeriod
109Graeme SmithSouth AfricaApril 24, 2003-March 5, 2014
93Allan BorderAustraliaDecember 7, 1984-March 29, 1994
80Stephen FlemingNew ZealandFebruary 14, 1997-December 18, 2006
77Ricky PontingAustraliaMarch 8, 2004-December 29, 2010
74Clive LloydWest IndiesNovember 22, 1974-January 2, 1985

+ Smith's tally includes one Test for the ICC World XI.

Most Tests as captain for other sides

TeamTests a captainCaptainPeriod
India60M. S. DhoniApril 11, 2008-December 30, 2014
England59Alastair CookMarch 12, 2010-December 20, 2016
Sri Lanka56Arjuna RanatungaDecember 8, 1989-February 28, 1999
Pakistan56Misbah-ul-HaqNovember 12, 2010-May 14, 2017
Bangladesh34Mushfiqur RahimOctober 21, 2011-October 8, 2017
Zimbabwe21Alastair CampbellSeptember 11, 1996-November 19, 2002
Zimbabwe21Heath StreakSeptember 12, 2000-March 1, 2004
Ireland3William PorterfieldMay 12, 2018-July 27, 2019
Afghanistan2Asghar AfghanJune 14, 2018-March 18, 2019
Afghanistan2Rashid KhanSeptember 5, 2019-November 29, 2019

Most Test wins as captain

WinsCaptainTests as captainTeamPeriod
53Graeme Smith109South AfricaApril 24, 2003-March 5, 2014
48Ricky Ponting77AustraliaMarch 8, 2004-December 29, 2010
41Steve Waugh57AustraliaMarch 5, 1999-January 6, 2004
36Clive Lloyd74West IndiesNovember 22, 1974-January 2, 1985
33Virat Kohli55IndiaDecember 9, 2014-March 2, 2020
32Allan Border93AustraliaDecember 7, 1984-March 29, 1994

Under Virat Kohli's leadership, India has won 33 out of 55 Tests.   -  FILE PHOTO/R.V. MOORTHY

 

Most Test defeats as captain

LossesCaptainTests as captainTeamPeriod
29Graeme Smith109South AfricaApril 24, 2003-March 5, 2014
27Stephen Fleming80New ZealandFebruary 14, 1997-December 18, 2006
26Brian Lara47West IndiesMarch 27, 1997-December 1, 2006
22Allan Border93AustraliaDecember 7, 1984-March 29, 1994
22Alastair Cook59EnglandMarch 12, 2010-December 20, 2016
21Michael Atherton54EnglandAugust 5, 1993-August 4, 2001

Most Tests drawn as captain

DrawsCaptainTests as captainTeamPeriod
38Allan Border93AustraliaDecember 7, 1984-March 29, 1994
30Sunil Gavaskar47IndiaJanuary 24, 1976-February 5, 1985
27Graeme Smith109South AfricaApril 24, 2003-March 5, 2014
26Clive Lloyd74West IndiesNovember 22, 1974-January 2, 1985
26Imran Khan48PakistanJuly 29, 1982-January 7-1992
25Arjuna Ranatunga56Sri LankaDecember 8, 1989-February 28, 1999
25Stephen Fleming80New ZealandFebruary 14, 1997-December 18, 2006

Note: The four captains involved in a tied Test match are Richie Benaud (Australia) and Frank Worrell (West Indies) 1960, Kapil Dev (India) and Allan Border (Australia) in 1986.

Most successful Test captains (minimum 25 Tests as captain)

Win percentageWinsCaptainTests as captainTeamPeriod
71.9341Steve Waugh57AustraliaMarch 5, 1999-January 6, 2004
62.3448Ricky Ponting77AustraliaMarch 8, 2004-December 29, 2010
60.0033Virat Kohli55IndiaDecember 9, 2014-March 2, 2020
58.0618Mike Brearley31EnglandJune 16, 1977-September 1, 1981
56.2518Kane Williamson32New ZealandJuly 28, 2016-March 2, 2020
54.0027Viv Richards50West IndiesAugust 7, 1980-August 12, 1991

Least successful Test captains (minimum 25 Tests as captain)

Win percentageWinsCaptainTests as captainTeamPeriod
8.823John Reid34New ZealandFebruary 18, 1956-July 13, 1965
11.764Kapil Dev34IndiaFebruary 23, 1983-March 17, 1987
14.294Kim Hughes28AustraliaMarch 24, 1979-November 26, 1984
15.635David Gower32EnglandAugust 12, 1982-August 29, 1989
16.004Sachin Tendulkar25IndiaOctober 10, 1996-March 6, 2000
18.756Daniel Vettori32New ZealandNovember 8, 2007-January 29, 2011

 

To be continued……

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