World Cup 2015: Spotlight on captains who will pull the strings
Nobody will face more scrutiny Down Under in the 2015 World Cup than the men entrusted with the captain's armband.WorldCup2015 Updated: Jan 25, 2015 14:58 IST
"I am not a lone wolf, I am a team man. I need to have people around me. If you give me the toughest assignment possible and I have people with me, I would definitely give it my best shot."
Mahendra Singh Dhoni's words in Caribbean sports psychologist Rudi Webster's book 'Think like a Champion' is a reminder of how a captain is only as good as his team. But captaincy is also about mastering tactics, man management and communication while encouraging unity in the team and inspiring teammates at the worst of times. And not always does flair for captaincy preclude one's cricket skills.
Like Imran Khan, who had long before Dhoni's move in the 2011 final, promoted himself in the batting order of the World Cup final. His only fifty of the 1992 World Cup was a delicately balanced 72 that allowed Inzamam-ul-Haq and Wasim Akram to go after the bowling in the final overs. Kapil Dev's 175 in the 1983 World Cup was Hall-of-Fame stuff. Equally fascinating was Arjuna Ranatunga's feat of staying unbeaten in four of his six innings in the 1996 World Cup, including his 47 not out in the final.
Few would forget the lashing India got from Ricky Ponting in the 2003 final. More famous than that unbeaten 140 is Steve Waugh's century against South Africa in a 1999 World Cup Super Six match and his jibe at Herschelle Gibbs, "Do you realise you've just cost your team the match?"
These are performances Cup winning captains would be remembered for, but there was more to their captaincy. For Clive Lloyd, the biggest task was soldering players from across the Caribbean into an invincible unit.
In his autobiography 'Out of my comfort zone' Waugh writes how he made Tom Moody secure the services of a grandmother from Cardiff to sew the numbers corresponding to the players' position in Australia's limited overs history on their caps before the 1999 World Cup. It was his way of instilling pride in the players. Each World Cup has teams battling their own expectations and pressure. This one will be no different. In 2011, Dhoni did a first by leading India to a World Cup at home. It will be the turn of Michael Clarke and Brendon McCullum this time.
World T20 champions Sri Lanka will look to achieve a double. With Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara playing in their last World Cup, captain Angelo Mathews knows what would be the fitting tribute to them. Young Jason Holder, on the other hand, has the job of keeping West Indies together while Pakistan find themselves in a soup without their match-winning spinner Saeed Ajmal. South Africa, England and New Zealand are reminded every time that they have not won a World Cup.
South Africa have been dubbed chokers, but AB de Villiers is of a different mould, particularly with bat in hand. "People make a big thing of something that's not. I wasn't part of most of the World Cups. They had nothing to do with me, except that it was for the same country. We have a good team now and our vision is to win trophies. I'm still a proud South African and hopefully we will win a trophy soon," he had told HT.
Perhaps nobody would feel the heat as much as Dhoni. "He is not playing the World Cup at home but that doesn't mean expectations would be any less," said Madan Lal. "World Cup is a pressure tournament, but I never saw Kapil change his way of captaincy. He was proactive and responded to situations quickly."
The Supreme Court verdict will weigh on Dhoni's mind, but he would know there is only one way to shift focus from that.