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Batsmen still preferred as skippers

While captain MS Dhoni's stock keeps rising, other captains across the world are in the line of fire. In the last few months, new leaders have emerged in Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

india Updated: Jun 24, 2011 00:02 IST
Amrit Mathur

While captain MS Dhoni's stock keeps rising, other captains across the world are in the line of fire. In the last few months, new leaders have emerged in Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

England have appointed three captains, one each for different formats, and South Africa have zeroed in on AB de Villiers to succeed Graeme Smith. In Zimbabwe and the West Indies, captaincy is a lottery and Pakistan have surpassed themselves by taking a series of bizarre decisions.

Traditional method
In this mess, a few things stand out. The traditional method of finding a captain in established nations is to identify possible candidates early and groom them for the job. Recently, this process has undergone change and players are interviewed by a selection panel to judge their suitability. New Zealand have taken this process a step forward and, as a concession to greater transparency in governance, sought the opinion of players about their future skippers.

But even as things seem to change, the basics remain the same — cricket is a batsman's game, so more batsmen become captains than bowlers. Mutthiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne, the top two wicket-takers in cricket history, did not captain their national teams. Dennis Lillee, Glenn McGrath were never serious contenders, nor were any of the West Indian great fast bowlers.

Anil Kumble proved to be a fine captain but he got the honour late in his career. This is despite an outstanding career, a reputation for professionalism and a track record of leading teams at different levels.

Out of radar
Among the current senior India players, Zaheer Khan is never mentioned as a likely captain, he is not even in the so-called zone of consideration. Harbhajan Singh is vice-captain on the current tour, but he was promoted only when several seniors chose not to tour the West Indies. Also, Harbhajan (a veteran of 93 Tests) is deputy to Suresh Raina, who has a modest record from the eight matches he has played.

Quite often, captaincy choices are influenced by the popular image of the player. Yuvraj Singh is an example of someone who has lost out because of the personality he projects, or what the media has created for him.

At other times, players miss out simply because of circumstances and luck. Ravi Shastri and VVS Laxman would have made very competent leaders but did not get a chance.