That cricket is a religion in India is well known. The onus, then, of leading the team in a nation where the sport is regarded as an obsession is no easy task. This can be a major reason why the greatest batsman in the sport, Sachin Tendulkar, did not taste much success as the leader of the Indian cricket team.
To lead the Men in Blue, a certain element of calmness to go with aggression is the need of the hour. Over the years, we have seen various skippers lead the team but the most successful have been the ones who have been able to keep their nerves under check when the side has been in trouble.
Overall, there have been 33 Test captains for India in the history of the game, while 24 have led the side in One Day Internationals. The ODI and T20I side is currently led by Rohit Sharma, who took over from Virat Kohli.
We take a look at former captain Kohli’s reign and how India have flourished under his leadership and also recount the most successful skippers that have been in charge of the Indian cricket team.
The successful opener took over the role as full-time T20I skipper after Kohli stepped down from the role following the T20 World Cup. His first assignment was the home series against New Zealand, which India won 3-0. The Mumbai player was recently promoted as captain of the ODI team as well, with his first outing being the upcoming series against South Africa.
Overall, Rohit has led India in 32 international matches, with India winning 26 games.
Kohli is undoubtedly one of the bests skippers that the side has had. With 39 Test wins under his belt, the Delhi player is not only the most successful skipper for India in the format, but he has also played a huge role in bringing about a Test revolution in the country.
Ever since he took on the role, in 2014, after MS Dhoni stepped down, Kohli has been adamant about making India the best Test-playing country in the world. He has focused on fitness and has backed his pace bowlers to the hilt, and the results are there to be seen. India have won the Test mace – the top-ranked Test team each year – since 2017 and were undoubtedly the best team in action in the World Test Championships. With historical series wins in Australia in 2018-19 and 2020-21, the team has achieved heights, and Kohli has been at the forefront.
Not only does he have the record for joint-highest most consecutive Test wins as a skipper (9) with Ricky Ponting, he is also the first Asian skipper to win a Test series Down Under.
Under Kohli, Team India also advanced to the semi-finals of the 2019 Cricket World Cup in England and the finals of the 2017 Champions Trophy as well as ending up as the finalists of the 2021 WTC finals.
Long before Kohli’s rule, it was Mahendra Singh Dhoni who had took the Indian cricket team to unparalleled heights. The only skipper with all major ICC events under his belt, the team rose to dominate under his rein, for which fans will forever be grateful to ‘Mahi’.
Dhoni started off his leadership duties by leading a relatively inexperienced Indian team to the first T20 World Cup crown in South Africa in 2007. Thus began Dhoni’s era that saw Team India clinch the 2011 World Cup and the 2013 Champions Trophy in quick succession. The side also became the number one ranked Test side for the first time in the history of the game, and it would not be a hyperbole to suggest that Kohli has inherited a team that had been groomed by Dhoni.
‘Captain Cool’ or the ‘Man with the Midas Touch’ also was a dominating batsman and was at the forefront in his leadership regime. He hung up his boots from Test cricket in 2014 but continued to play and lead Team India in the limited overs formats till 2016 before he gave up captaincy to focus on his batting ahead of the 2019 World Cup.
‘Dada’ as he is called is often termed as the best captain of the Indian cricket team. He is known for instilling in the players a feeling of self-belief and was the one who saw the mighty Australian eye-to-eye on a number of occasions. He had an excellent eye for spotting young talent, and the fact that most of the legends of the game such as Zaheer Khan, Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh flourished under him, tells us of the contribution of Dada to Indian cricket.
From leading the side to the finals of the 2003 World Cup to instilling confidence among them to win overseas, Ganguly was a captain par excellence. The image of Ganguly taking off his jersey and waving it around from the iconic Lord’s balcony in 2002 after India chased down a steep target during the Natwest series finals against England further gives proof of how the Bengal player broke conventions. Overall, Dada captained India in 146 One Day Internationals (76 wins, 65 losses) and 49 Tests (21 wins and 13 defeats).
The Hyderabad player, known for his wristy strokes, succeeded Kris Srikanth in 1989 to become the captain of Indian cricket team. The only captain to lead India in three editions of the World Cup (in 1992, 1996, and 1999), Azharuddin gathered together a strong army of players who ensured that India were almost unbeatable at home – in familiar conditions.
The former Indian captain led India in 47 Test matches, winning 14 of them – a record till Ganguly registered 21 wins in his Test captain career. At home, Azharuddin’s Team India won 13 of the 19 Test matches that they played, while he was equally successful in 50-over games as well, with 90 wins in 174 matches (the highest till Dhoni surpassed him). Unfortunately, Azharuddin’s career ended prematurely after a match-fixing scandal broke out in 2000.
Talk of Indian cricket and Kapil Dev’s name will forever be mentioned. Not only was the player one of the best seam all-rounders in the game (India are still on the lookout for another Kapil Dev!) but he was an excellent man-manager as well, who brilliantly led a team of superheroes to the World Cup win in 1983.
Kapil Dev was asked to lead the team against the mighty West Indies in his first series as ODI skipper. Beating the odds, his men registered a win, which gave them tremendous confidence as they headed into the World Cup in England. Be it his epic knock of an unbeaten 175 against Zimbabwe or his spectacular catch in the finals of the event, Kapil Dev led from the front as India bagged their maiden World Cup title, which changed the game in India forever. Overall, he captained India in 74 One Day Internationals, winning 39 of those with an excellent win percentage of over 54. He also led the team to four Test wins in the 34 games that he captained.