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Monday, June 24, 2013

Is MSD the greatest limited overs captain ever?

We all know pictures say a lot more than words. So, sample the following

Year 2007

Year 2009

Year 2010

Year 2011

Year 2011

Year 2013

Now, having seen the achievements by this leader, let us also see what ODI statistics say about this captain? Where does he stand among the great captains of all-time?

The table above shows the list of captains and their records. Clearly, Dhoni is not high on the pecking order but then there is another question that comes to mind. What made these captains ranked higher than Dhoni win more? Let us look at this list more closely (applying a filter of 75 matches to analyse in detail) - the ones (higher than Dhoni) in the list are the following (in the order of the countries they played for):

  1. Clive Lloyd (1975-85) - One would say that all Lloyd had to do was toss the ball and whoever got it would start opening the bowling - such was the force of the Windies that every team that stood in its way got decimated.
  2. Viv Richards (1980-1991) - Viv Richards was the successor and he managed to repeat much of what Lloyd did till the fag end of his career as a captain when his bowlers were not much of a force.
  3. Steve Waugh (1997-2002) - Steve Waugh played a long time under Alan Border (who comes just below MSD in this list) and thus inherited an Australian team that would go on to perform great deeds
  4. Ricky Ponting (2002-12) - Ponting acquired the mantle from Waugh and took Australian cricket to greater heights. This included multiple World Cup wins as well as Champions Trophy win. No doubt a great captain who led a great side.
  5. Hansie Cronje (1994-2000) - Hansie Cronje was the shrewdest captain that South Africa had after their re-introduction to international cricket. Cronje made the Proteans start believing till a match-fixing scandal broke him and his team.
  6. Shaun Pollock (2000-2005) - Shaun Pollock picked up the threads left by Cronje's untimely departure and nurtured the team with the help of individual geniuses like Jonty Rhodes, Alan Donald, Gary Kirsten and Jacques Kallis.
  7. Greame Smith (2003-2011) - Smith was introduced to captaincy very early by his management. Captaincy was as natural as water to duck but he could not win any major tournament just like Pollock despite having a good team at disposal.
There is no doubt that these players have done well in their captaincy career but they also had the added advantage of a great squad at their disposal. The Windies (1980-2000) and Australians (2000-2010) were the champion sides of the decade - the other teams could only play catch-up with them. The South Africans were good but other than the first version of the Champions Trophy, they could hardly win a title at the international level.

What makes Dhoni different and better (in my humble reasoning) is that he has managed to lead Indian teams that were not so great to title wins in conditions that were adverse (T20 in South Africa as well as Champions Trophy in England). Yes, he did win the 2011 World Cup on familiar conditions with a team comprising the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and co. but that is not an one-off win in his resume. 

Let us look at the teams that he has won the international titles with:

The 2013 Champions Trophy had only three other players who had played the 2011 World Cup while there were three others who had played the 2007 T20 World Cup. A good nucleus for a side that showed how hungry they were on the field as well as demonstrated a brave front to the short and seaming stuff they faced with their bat.

With the T20 World Cup win, came the birth of IPL and Dhoni has shown that he can lead a team of international players and groom them to similar victories. Dhoni has shown that his captaincy can win matches for his team irrespective of conditions, coaches, form, teams, nationalities, personal issues. The Champions Trophy came with Dhoni contributing only 27 runs to the team's cause. Speak to any cricketer who has played under him and he has the same message - the way Dhoni supports him even when he is not in form makes wonders. Let it be Joginder Sharma, Ishant Sharma or even Albie Morkel.

Dont you think it is a valid assumption to take that MS Dhoni is the greatest captain ever in the limited overs format? Do let me know your comments.

All images are courtesy espncricinfo.com
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