Ravi Shastri listed India’s most successful captains to Wisden India ranking Mahendra Singh Dhoni as No 1. There is hardly anyone who would differ. But the rest of his list follows thus: Kapil Dev, Ajit Wadekar and MAK Pataudi, it that order.
“He (Dhoni) is easily India’s most successful captain, by a distance. There is no one even close to him in that regard. The names that follow in that list a fair distance behind are Kapil Dev, who led India to the World Cup title in 1983 and because of whom we won the Test series in England in 1986.
“And Ajit (Wadekar) in an era before there was one-day cricket, when we won successive Test series in the West Indies and then England in 1971. And of course, Tiger (Pataudi) for flamboyance. Baaki koi nahi (there is no one else),” Shastri told the website.
Where is Sourav Ganguly on that list?
Success in cricket terms is measured by statistics, win-loss ratio to be precise. So there is nothing subjective about this. Statistics say Sourav Ganguly is India’s second most successful captain after Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Yet, Ravi Shastri has spelt out a list of his choice.
It could be that the former India team director mixed up ‘success’ with ‘greatness’. The latter can have a bit of subjectivity to it. In evaluating greatness we bring in parameters like legacy, leadership etc over and above success.
Even then, if one sits to evaluate Ganguly’s legacy, a list of dashing match-winners come to mind. Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Ashish Nehra, Mohammad Kaif have all flourished under skipper Ganguly and went on to become stalwarts of the game.
Not only did Sourav Ganguly help steer India through a difficult period (match-fixing scandals) in the early 2000s, he also boasts a superb record at the helm. India’s win percentage in the 49 Test matches that Ganguly led was 42.6 per cent , while it was 51.7 per cent in 147 ODIs.
Ganguly also led India to the 2003 World Cup final and helped establish India’s dominance in the game over the last decade and a half.
Nobody can forget Ganguly’s leadership alongside the brilliance of VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Harbhajan Singh at the Eden Test against a rampaging Australia under Steve Waugh in 2001. Few teams have showed character to come back and win a Test after made to follow on.
Another reason why Ravi Shastri left Ganguly out could be because he believes Ganguly was behind why he was not made India coach ahead of Anil Kumble.
Ganguly, the current Cricket Association of Bengal president, who was part of the three-member BCCI advisory committee alongside Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar, later clarified that Shastri was living in a ‘fool’s paradise’ if he believed Ganguly was responsible for his ouster.
The Team Director’s job was fetching Shastri something around R 3.5 crore a year. He was earning something around R1.5-2 crore commentating for BCCI on television. Obviously, losing the Team India job hurt.
A third reason could be Shastri wanted to grab headlines. After all and sundry spoke about Indian captains over the years once Mahendra Singh Dhoni said he was stepping down, only something earth shattering could have made it get to the top of online searches.
Ravi Shastri could not think of a better way to kill two birds with one stone.