A shrewd captain with constant presence of mind, alive to each and every game situation, can make a huge difference in the IPL. It’s no surprise then that Chennai Super Kings was always a tough team to beat. (Illustration by Suneesh K.)
That Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Mumbai Indians are the most successful Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises is not up for debate. The two teams have dominated the T20 space in India, with only Kolkata Knight Riders coming close to their level of excellence. On paper, almost all the teams in the IPL look equally strong and star-studded. It’s the captaincy that makes the difference.
CSK, captained by M.S. Dhoni, never had leadership issues. There’s only one command centre and that’s the captain. In the T20 format, one key decision can swing the fortunes of a match. A shrewd captain with constant presence of mind, alive to each and every game situation, can make a huge difference. It’s no surprise then that Chennai was always a tough team to beat. The same was the case with Mumbai Indians, where Rohit Sharma’s superior decision-making prowess stood out.
So, why is it that IPL franchises do not seem to give adequate importance to choosing the right captain? It’s probably just muddled thinking. Either they are thinking far too much into the future and not choosing the best captain possible at the moment or they are bringing in considerations like having an Indian captain even when they have an experienced international captain in their arsenal.
Kolkata Knight Riders had Dinesh Karthik as the skipper even though World Cup-winning English captain Eoin Morgan was at their disposal. Delhi Capitals once picked Shreyas Iyer as the captain, trying to groom him for the future. Once Shreyas got injured, they picked Rishabh Pant as the captain and the franchise seems to be staying on with the wicketkeeper batsman, with the former deciding to opt out of Delhi. Shreyas is probably betting on one of the two new franchises, Lucknow and Ahmedabad, picking him as skipper. Delhi Capital even ignored Ravichandran Ashwin, regarded as one of the sharpest brains in the game, again probably because of his age and keeping the ‘future’ in mind. Kolkata kept playing with Karthik as the captain till it became extremely untenable, giving the leadership role to Morgan only when they absolutely had to.
If you roll back the years, Rajasthan Royals had won the inaugural edition of the IPL back in 2008. It’s worth remembering who the skipper was. It was Shane Warne to led the troops and it’s no surprise that he was able to rally a team, not the best on paper, to win the championship. Warne is regarded in Australian cricket circles as the best ever leader never to have captained the country. He may be a controversial figure off the field, but there was no denying his astute skills as a master tactician. Warne was able to unearth the real talents of people like Ravindra Jadeja and Yusuf Pathan and even got some domestic level players to punch way above their weight, to put together a fighting unit. No one expected them to qualify for the play-off stage, leave alone winning the championship. But such was Warne’s mastery that year that he made a telling difference with every captaincy call he took. Whether it was unconventional fielding positions, the dynamic batting order or ringing in the right bowling changes, Warne was in a class of his own. His bowling was top notch as usual, tying up the batters in knots during the middle overs. That was the last time, Rajasthan Royals won the cup. Now, they are one of the struggling units in the IPL. Even till this date, many former Australian cricketers believe that Warne should have captained Australia at some stage of his career.
It was a similar case with Adam Gilchrist and the Deccan Chargers (now Sunrisers Hyderabad). Deccan Chargers won the IPL with Gilchrist at the helm. It was one cracker of a squad with Herschelle Gibbs partnering Gilchrist at the top of the order and Andrew Symonds coming in at the later stages of the match. Fast bowler Ryan Harris was one big discovery for them. He was a surprise package who consistently took wickets at crucial phases. Again, Gilchrist’s tactical nous played a big role in the team becoming a formidable outfit. For many years after that the team struggled, up until David Warne took over the reins. Warne brought in fresh energy into the squad, with his aggressive brand of captaincy, not to mention his rocket like starts as an opening batter.Internet Explorer Channel Network