Captains play an enormous role in the sport of Cricket, probably more than any other sport. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a white ball game or a red ball game, the Captain plays an equally important role in all the formats. He plays a huge role in how the match progresses, making the right changes at the right time.
In this article, I intend to pick the five greatest ODI Captains in the 21st century, not just going by their achievements but going by the actual impact that these leaders have created in ODI cricket for their countries.
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#5: Eoin Morgan, England (2015 – present )
If anyone who had watched England play in the 2015 Cricket World Cup – told you that they would become Champions in the 2019 edition, you would have laughed at their face. But, it happened as we are already aware.
As much as Andrew Strauss has been credited for this turnaround in English white ball cricket, Eoin Morgan, their skipper, played an equally important role.
The Irish born Cricketer explained in detail to ECB why they got drubbed in Australia and what they could do to improve. The men at the top were impressed and continued with him in the leadership position.
He introduced the concept of “fearless batting” into English white ball Cricket, that made them manufacture arguably the best ODI batting lineup in the world at the moment.
Therefore, for the fact that he built this team of superstars from absolutely nothing, Morgan is no.5 pick in my list.
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#4: Sourav Ganguly, India (2000 – 05)
The story of Ganguly’s leadership is somewhat similar to that of Eoin Morgan, although India had its fair share of superstars in the form of Dravid and Sachin when Sourav was handed over the captaincy.
But, the team wasn’t in a better position in anyway, languishing at 6/7th rank in ODIs.
No one at that time gave India any chance of performing decently at the 2003 World Cup, let alone reaching the finals. But, Sourav made that happen by bringing in some raw talent from the core of India like Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and of course MS Dhoni – who later went on to becoming one of the legends of the game.
Sourav taught India the brand of Fearless cricket, taking inspiration from nemesis Australia and paved the way for India to become a world class ODI side.
For the priceless leadership and also giving India its next best leader in the form of MS Dhoni, Sourav is no.4 in my list.
#3: Ricky Ponting, Australia (2002 -11
Many people argue that Ponting’s ODI captaincy record is largely benefitted by the fact that he had so many superstars in his team. But, try handling the egos of all those legends in the team which is a magnanimous task for any leader.
The likes of Gilchrist, Warne, Hayden, Martyn, McGrath all were absolute legends of the game and captaincy candidates in their own right with enormous wisdom about the game. It is one thing handling the youn-guns and it is another complex thing handling a team of superstars.
Record wise, he holds a win percentage of over 70, with no one anywhere close to it after captaining as many matches.
All these things made me keep Ponting at no.3 position on my list.
#2: Kane Williamson, New Zealand (2016 – present)
You might say that how can a single campaign determine the calibre of a leader. But, if you have a look at the 2019 World Cup campaign of Kane Williamson and his New Zealand team, you would think otherwise.
In addition to being the underdog team in the tournament, the team lacked any superstar players besides Kane, Boult and Taylor.
The team’s main opener Guptill was in a slump, barely scoring runs. But, Kane being the mastermind he is, utilised all the resources that he had at hand, stuck to the team’s strengths rather than worrying about weaknesses.
The fact that after scoring merely 240 odd runs against power packed batting sides in the form of India and England in semis and finals respectively, they didn’t allow either of those teams to get past their totals, by defeating India and tying the final with England.
If not for the unreasonable boundary count rule, Kane could easily have been a World Cup winning captain.
Kane lands no.2 spot in my list.
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#1: MS Dhoni, India (2007 – 16)
Widely regarded as the “greatest cricketing brain of all time”, MS has crafted his own style of captaincy that is at best defined as ‘unconventional yet successful.’
MS is an exceptional Captain who often left commentators wondering about his decisions on the field, with many criticising his moves first and later realising why he’d done when that move paid off.
In addition to being reputed as the best finisher ever, MS also kept wickets where he literally “directs” spinners ball by ball like a movie director does in a movie.
His field placings, choosing the right fielders for the right spots… he’s the best Commander in chief any team aspires to have.
So, there’s no doubt in placing MS Dhoni at no.1 spot on my list.
Comment your picks for five greatest ODI captains below.