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Who is the most successful ODI captain?

One-Day international cricket has been around for a good 50 years and is one of the game’s most popular formats. More than 4000 one day internationals have been played so far which includes 12 ODI World Cups as well. Cricket, unlike Football, is a sport where the captains play a huge role in how a team functions. Generally, the captain of a team is the best player and has a huge say right from the final playing XI, bowling changes, batting order, and so on. So who is the most successful ODI captain?

Over the years there have been a number of influential cricket captains that have played the game and led their respective teams for a number of matches. But who is the most successful ODI captain? Let’s find out here.

Note: For better visualisation, we have only considered captains who have led their respective teams in 130 ODIs or more.

1) Ricky Ponting (Australia):
Matches as captain 230 | Wins: 165 | Losses: 51 | Tie/NR: 2/12 | Win% 75.6

When we talk about the most successful ODI captain, the name Ricky Ponting generally props up. He has been one of the most influential captains the game has ever seen and took Australia to heights few captains can dream of. Ponting led Australia in 230 ODIs, won 165 matches, lost only 51 matches while 14 games either ended in a tie or was a washout. A winning percentage of 75.6 over a span of 230 matches is unprecedented and a feat that might not be achieved ever again. Ponting holds the record of captaining most matches for a single side in ODIs.

It is also true that Australia Ponting led the best players the game has seen. The likes of Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne are once in generation cricketers but nothing can be taken away from Ponting and his outstanding leadership. Ponting along with Clive Lloyd are the only two captains to have led their side to two ODI Cricket World Cup wins. Overall, Ponting was part of three World Cup wins, 1999 (as a player), 2003, and 2007 (as captain).

Ponting retired from ODIs as one of the greats scoring 13,704 runs in 375 matches averaging 42.04 which included 82 half-centuries and 30 tons.

2) Hansie Cronje (South Africa)
Matches as captain 138 | Wins: 99 | Losses: 36 | Tie/NR: 0/3 | Win% 73.3

The late Hansie Cronje lost a lot of his reputation after his name was involved in the match-fixing scandal but he still remains one of the most successful captains to ever lead an ODI team. As the captain of South Africa, Cronje achieved 99 wins in 138 matches, a win percentage of 73.3%. He is the most successful captain for South Africa in ODI cricket and was a key component in helping the side get back to its feet in the mid-nineties.

Cronje took over the reins as captain during South Africa’s 1994-95 tour of Australia. He holds the record for most consecutive ODI matches as captain and is the only player to play in 100+ consecutive ODI matches as captain. Cronje’s calm demeanour and excellent reading of the game made him a great leader. Moreover, he excelled in all three facets of the game. Sachin Tendulkar once famously said that he could face the fastest bowlers in the world and score heavily but always had trouble against Cronje.

While South Africa did not win an ICC World Cup title under Cronje, they scaled heights very few teams have managed in world cricket. Cronje passed away in a plane crash in 2002.

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3) Graeme Smith (South Africa)
Matches as captain 150 | Wins: 92 | Losses: 51 | Tie/NR: 1/6 | Win% 63.8

If there is one name on this list of most successful ODI captains that can be termed inspirational it will have to be Graeme Smith. He took over as the captain of South Africa at a tumultuous time and transformed the side into world-beaters.

At 22, Smith was appointed as South Africa’s youngest ever captain. South Africa were in deep mud when Smith took charge. The match-fixing allegations were in full swing and every South African cricketer was being looked at with suspicion. When Smith was made captain it seemed the selectors were making him a scapegoat but the youngster took to captaincy like fish to water and showed his class. He was first made captain in Test cricket and soon took over across formats. The team showed remarkable improvement once Smith took over and secured wins all over the cricketing globe.

Smith is also often credited for getting players like AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn, Herschelle Gibbs into the side and making them into successful cricketers. He captained South Africa in 150 ODIs, out of which the team won 92 matches, lost 51 while 7 matches were either a washout or ended in a tie. With a win percentage of 63.8 in ODI cricket, Smith is third on the list of most successful captains in ODIs.

4) Allan Border (Australia)
Matches as captain 178 | Wins: 107 | Losses: 67 | Tie/NR: 1/3 | Win% 61.1

The man who led Australia to their first-ever World Cup win in 1987, Allan Border was initially not too keen on taking up the role. But once he did, he changed the landscape of Australian cricket and paved the way for the sport to reach the masses.

Border was first made captain of the Australian cricket team during the 1984-85 season and from thereon he took the side to more prominent heights. Cricket was always a popular sport in Australia but only after Border took over it became a household name. Border commanded respect and being the best batsman in the side, he certainly got it.

The Australian side went into the 1987 ODI World Cup as dark horses. Not many gave them a chance especially since the tournament was held in the subcontinent. But they proved everyone wrong by beating arch-rivals England in the final by seven runs. The win helped Border achieve cult status in Australia.

Overall, Border captained Australia in 178 ODIs winning 107 matches, which is a win percentage of 61.1 making him one of the most successful captains Australia ever had.

5) MS Dhoni (India)
Matches as captain 200 | Wins: 110 | Losses: 74 | Tie/NR: 5/11 | Win% 58.2

The only captain to win all three ICC trophies – ODI World Cup, Champions Trophy, and T20 World Cup – MS Dhoni completely changed the landscape of cricket in India. Cricket has always been the most popular sport in India but it lacked a proper leader. The likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid were all great batsmen but uninspiring as leaders. Sourav Ganguly was a captain who everyone listened to but India still weren’t able to win ICC trophies under him.

Once Dhoni took over, India started winning trophies at the ICC events. Under him, India won the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, but the biggest win certainly was the 2011 ODI World Cup. Dhoni himself was at the forefront as India lifted the World Cup after 28 years. India then also won the Champions Trophy in 2013 and qualified for the semifinal of the 2015 World Cup under Dhoni.

In all, Dhoni captained India in 200 ODIs during which India won 110 matches, a win percentage of 58.2. Dhoni retired from ODI cricket in 2020 as one of the best finishers the game has ever seen. Under him, India had a glorious run where they won all over the world.

There are a lot more influential captains that have changed the fate of their sides. Arjuna Ranatunga from Sri Lanka, Clive Lloyd of the West Indies, and Stephen Fleming from New Zealand were extremely impressive as the captain of their sides. Over the years there have been a number of such successful leaders in ODI cricket. Who according to you is the most inspirational captain in the current time?

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Ashish Pant
A fantasy gaming enthusiast, gaming writer and an out and out cricket nerd. I am an engineer by education who found his solace in writing.


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