There’s a likelihood captaincy will play a decisive role in two major Test series involving India, Australia and England in the next few months. That being the case, let’s look at recent leadership trends. The best way to gauge captaincy during a game is to notice if the on-field tactics have a logical pattern.
If his moves bear no relationship to what the batsmen are doing then it probably means the captain has either dozed off or is out of his depth.
This raises an interesting point about modern-day captaincy. I think teams devote excess time to pre-match plans and little on the “gut feel” aspect of captaincy. It’s fine to have a loosely formed plan for each batsman but when it’s not working that’s the time to adapt quickly. You show me a plan that regularly works and I’ll show you a batsman who’s a very limited stroke maker.
Take, for example, the case of fieldsmen being placed to save boundaries for a new batsman.
If these guys then remain rooted to the spot, despite not fielding a ball for half an hour, then the captain has some work to do. Good captains are well prepared and rely on gut feel.
A captain’s intuition can help provide a breakthrough. That’s why brave leaders are often able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. In The Oval Test, England needed a spark to defeat Pakistan. Instead of gambling and being brave, Andrew Strauss opted to put all his faith in Graeme Swann. It never pays to concentrate on taking wickets at one end especially when you need them in a hurry. On this evidence, I feel, Strauss might struggle in Australia.
In Australia, a captain has to be imaginative and brave. Strauss’s pace attack is renowned for excelling in conditions not found in Australia and judging by England’s current batting form, runs will be at a premium.
On the other hand, Ricky Ponting can be conservative but he has one major advantage over Strauss. When Ponting is pushed into a corner he will resort to all-out attack.
Ponting also has to confront India and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Dhoni is tactically the most aggressive of the three captains but his confidence may have been dented by leading an attack that has regressed lately. The outcome of the series against Australia could depend not only how the Indian bowlers will do but also whether Dhoni can conjure up some magic.
Nevertheless, there are a few simple rules of captaincy that should never change. They are:
1. Never concede you can’t get a batsman out; always place a field that indicates you’re still trying. 2. Don’t willingly give up easy singles. 3. The more dire the situation the braver the captaincy.
The captain who performs these tasks best will increase the winning chances.