Statutory Warning : this is a long post, this is my favourite topic, Cricket !
A few days back I sent an email to cricinfo.com and I got a reply from a lady asking me if I would like to be part of Cricinfo talk show with Tony Greig discussing the topic of courageous captain in view of Graeme Smith’s bravery of batting to save the Sydney Test Match with a broken finger and an injured elbow.
I was like ‘Neki aur puch puch’ (jumping at the idea), Cricket is my first love, I could never refuse it… I always have a very strong view about most things in cricket and I always believe I know more than most when it comes to cricket.
On Thursday I did recording for the show on telephone, at12.30 in office with boss allowing me to sit in a small cabin so that no echoing would happen !!!! However I won’t say that I was completely satisfied with how the recording went. I could not say all that I wanted to say, It was like the excitement of talking to Tony Greig himself took over. I and another guy Praveen Kannan from Chennai discussed with Tony and the show was recorded. The show will release on Monday and I hope I am not edited out of it !!! I shall post the link of the show once it is released, even if you dont want it I will give it you and advertise it everywhere !!!!! lol..
Since the show was about captains I decided to write about cricket captains. This is about the few captains I like the most. These according to my humble opinion are some of the best, some of them did not get proper opportunities but I am sure they would make fantastic captains !!
I cannot start with any other captain than, Douglas Robert Jardine.
Don Bradman had re-written rules when he scored lots of runs in the 1930 tour of England. The man was averaging 137 runs for an innings at that juncture. When England bowlers couldnt get Bradman out on the low and wet pitches of England it was thought that on harder and drier pitches of Australia Don Bradman would probably score even more runs.
Douglas Jardine, born in Bombay in 1900 was appointed skipper of the MCC XI for the 1932-33 tour of Australia. Hewas a cold and calculating produce of Winchester Oxford. Jardine studied the film records of Bradman batting in the 1930’s (imagine at that time, he went about it in a very professional manner)
This skipper wrote the script of the infamous BODYLINE series. Now I do understand a lot of people think it was against the spirit of the game, but I am not here to debate whether it was in the spirit of the game or not. It is about this man’s captaincy, he spotted that the Don was not very comfortable with the balls pitched on the leg stump and rising. He then got his bowlers to this plan, using Harold Larwood as a main weapon and won the series 4-1. He put a fear in the mind of batsmen. No helmet days those. The Don was eventually beaten in his own backyard.
I admire Jardine for his cold, steely, calculative methods. He found a way to win against the Don, which is no mean feat !!!! trust me !!!!
The second skipper I would like to discuss is Ian Chappell. I hate his brother Greg, but this man is one guy who has really uncluttered views on captaincy. He believes there should be no coaches and I cannot agree more with him. His views on captaincy are very simple, when you bat try to score runs, when you bowl try to get wickets, run like hell between the wickets and don’t drop catches. Quite simple eh !!
No its not like that, when a batsman is attacking so many captains put fielders on the boundary and defend, I dont think Ian Chappell as captain had a defensive bone in his body.
One incident I remember particularly about this very positive captain was when Ian was playing under Bill Lawry who was captain, when the opposing team was about to win on the final day, Bill Lawry the captain decided to push the field back on the off side and instructed the bowlers to bowl outside off stump. The reaction to this from Ian was, “Bill, if you think this is test cricket, you can shove it up your arse !!”
It takes balls for a player to tell that to his captain, and this man had plenty of them.
Ian Chappell fashioned an Australian team in his own image between 1971 and 1975: aggressive, resourceful and may be at times ugly. In 1973–74. Chappell led his team to a 2–0 victory in the three Tests played in Australia. Next they toured New Zealand after the first drawn test. The Australians lost to the Kiwis for the first time ever in the second Test at Christchurch, Chappell was involved in a verbal confrontation with the leading New Zealand batsman Glenn Turner in that match. There after the Aussies then played a bad-tempered tour match at Dunedin, this did not enhance the reputation of Chappell or his team, before winning the final Test at Auckland. On this tour, the behaviour of the team was questioned and some journalists labelled them the “ugly Australians”
In 1976, Chappell wrote about his attitude to the opposition:
… although we didn’t deliberately set out to be a ‘bunch of bastards’ when we walked on to the field, I’d much prefer any team I captained to be described like that than as ‘a nice bunch of blokes on the field.’ As captain of Australia my philosophy was simple: between 11.00am and 6.00pm there was no time to be a nice guy. I believed that on the field players should concentrate on giving their best to the team, to themselves and to winning; in other words, playing hard and fairly within the rules. To my mind, doing all that left no time for being a nice guy.
No this guy is actually fair, when Greg Chappell instructed his brother Trevor Chappell to bowl the infamous underarm delivery in 1980 to deny New Zealand a victory. Ian was scathing in his criticism and was quoted in the news papers as , “Fair dinkum, Greg, how much pride do you sacrifice to win $35,000?”
He never minced words and called a spade a spade ! At times people took him as an outspoken guy but I am a fan !!
Shane Warne believes Ian Chappel was the biggest Influence on his career. If you ask my personal opinion he is the best captain in my view till date, amongst all others!!! I admire him greatly !!
(I hate his brother like anything, which I must add again.)
Next I would like to name, Mark Taylor, This Aussie captain took a galvanised team from Allan Border, Allan Border did the dirty work of turning the losers into a very hard working and a fighting unit. But Taylor was blessed with two brilliant bowlers, Glenn Mcgrath and Shane Warne, they blossomed under him, He took on the might of the West Indies and they won in the Windies and claimed the unofficial crown of Test Cricket Champions from them in 1994-95.
I remember this captain for his daring declarations, his will to bring results to matches even at the risk of losing the game. I particularly remember him declaring on his overnight & personal best score at 334 not out against Pakistan, which was level with Sir Don Bradman’s high score, which then was the highest score by an individual from Australia. He did not bat on the next day for the record, because he felt they needed time to win the match. He clearly had in mind that winning was more important then personal records. A very clear message was sent to the team and a wonderful trend set from which Australian cricket rose like a phoenix. The team victory mattered and nothing else !!
One of the modern chapmions and a skipper who set new benchmarks in Test Cricket , Steve (Tugga) Waugh, now he was made captain after Mark Taylor who many claimed to be a brilliant tactitian and a positive captain. Steve Waugh, in no ones eyes was a tactician or strategically brilliant. All thought he had a good team and so he would not have a lot problems. But what I like the most about Steve Waugh was he took the game to a new level.
At a time when interest in Test Cricket was waning, ODI’s were distinctly more popular he raised the standards of the game. They came up with a new way of batting, scoring 300 plus in a day. Dictating the terms by scoring fast getting more time to bowl the opposition out. Aided by a fantastic team, this Skipper made record breaking victory streaks.
I don’t think any ODI series or any T-20 series was as gripping and as mind boggling then the series in India in 2000-2001. Mark my words, he lost the series and only Steve Waugh could lose that series. Because Steve Waugh was such an attacking a captain, he also at times left a door open for the opposition. What happened at the Eden, VVS & Rahul batted the whole day and turned the series on its head, is a miracle ! Only Miracles could beat Tugga’s team !
Tendulkar had lost the motivation to lead the team, he expressed desire to relinquish the captaincy, the South Africans were to tour India for a test series and ODI series. Sachin was requested to carry on and lead the team in the test series and India lost the test series. The home test record which was intact in Azhar’s tenure was broken. In the ODI series Sourav was made captain. Not many would have envied him at that point. But Sourav won the series, again a series in which Hansie Cronje later confessed, and let a match fixing cloud.
Indian cricket was at its nadir, true, ardent cricket fans like me couldn’t discuss cricket any where as every body would taunt us & tell us that the players take money (bribes) and play, that the results are fixed. I would get angry, I would feel like smashing their faces.
This is when Australia was to tour India. Sourav was captain, Steve Waugh called it the final frontier for his team, his all conquering team had not won a series in India, the rest of the world had been conquered !! They came to India after 15 consecutive Test Match victories. Anil Kumble was injured. There was no way India could stop the rampaging Aussies.
Sourav fought for the inclusion of Harbhajan Singh in the team, a rookie then who was dismissed for bad conduct for disciplinary problems at the NCA camp in Bangalore. He got the team he wanted, he would have dearly wanted Kumble but he was injured. Sourav instructed his team mates to look into the oppostion’s eye, not to take a single backward step, stare for stare, sledge for sledge, f#$k you for F#$k you tooo !!!
Sourav’s men went into Mumbai for the first test in a fiesty fight, but a scintilating Adam Gilchrist snatched the match away and in the end the Aussies got to their record 16th consecutive test match victory by 10 wickets.
1-0 down, with their backs to the wall India went in to Eden, Australia scored 445, Steve Waugh making a century. India replied with just 171, Laxman made 50. Australia Lead by 274 runs before lunch on day three, Waugh could have batted, but he thought he would finish the match faster. He enforced the follow-on, in the end it proved to be a cardinal sin, the biggest mistake.
At that time came a brilliant tactical move by the duo of John Wright & Sourav, they kept Laxman padded up, he had just scored a 50 not out. He was to go in at number 3. Rahul was pushed to no. 6, he was not scoring runs in the series. Warne had cast a spell over Rahul and he was always his bunny till then. At the end of day three India was 254/4, still 20 runs behind the first innings lead and only 6 wickets in hand with two days to go, Rahul and Laxman the overnight batsmen with the keeper and the tail to follow. Nothing could have saved India, John Wright and Sourav received a letter from 4 fans, who told them that they believed in the team and that the team could still pull it off.
Taking the fairy tale optimism of the fans the next day witnessed a miracle…. Very Very Special (VVS) Laxman scored a double century, Rahul a 150 and both were unbeaten at the end of the day 4, with India 315 runs ahead of Australia. The tables had turned, the boot was firmly on the other foot. At the end of the day’s play, Harsha Bhogle was interviewing Rahul and VVS, both tired but mighty happy, as he finished the interview Harsha went to Sourav and asked him what he thought, where was the match heading ?? At that point Sourav put his arm across the shoulder of Harbhajan Singh, who was standing by, and told Harsha,”Kal yeh mujhe test match jitayenga!” (tomorrow he will win me the test match)
The rest as they say is history ! Bhajji picked up 6 wickets including a hattrick ! India won the test match by 171 runs. The Aussie juggernaut was brought to a halt, the final frontier had to wait … Chennai also witnessed another heart stopper and India beat the world champions 2-1. Harbhajan for whose inclusion Ganguly had fought picked up 32 wickets in the 3 Test matches, the second highest wicket taker in the series was Sachin with 3 !!!!!
For the records this is the only series when Warne and Mcgrath played all the matches and still lost a series. In the ashes that the Aussies lost Mcgrath was injured in the matches they lost !!!
Sourav had arrived and arrived in some style. Thereafter he along with Sachin, Rahul, VVS and Kumble went on to change the impression of Indian Cricket. Indian’s were tigers at home and mice abroad. He changed it all… India won test matches in England and drew a series against Steve Waugh’s Australians in Australia. A series we would have won if not for Steve Bucknor, he made some shocking decisions even then in Sydney !! He had the most amazing eye for picking talent, Bhajji, Veeru, Yuvi, Dhoni, Zak, Kaif were all introduced during his reign.
Sourav Ganguly would be always credited in my mind for making the Indian team a fighting unit, a unit that did not take any shit from the opposition, a team that would give an eye for an eye. He changed the way Indian’s went about cricket, we weren’t just talented cricketers any more, now people started to get weary of the confident Indian cricketer… !!! And ofcourse you will all always remember him taking his T-shirt off at Lords !!! That symbolises Sourav the brash, passionate Indian Skipper, who wore his heart on his sleeve ! Indian cricket will be forever remember our DADA !
These are my favourite 5 captains, who in my humble opinion were amongst the best and contributed immensely to cricket and their respective countries.
A few other captains I liked a lot :