Tuesday, May, 28,2024


It is often said that the best leaders are not necessarily the ones who do great themselves but who have the ability to get the best out of others! More than other sports this is applicable for cricket where the art of captaincy matters a lot, especially in T20 games. In Test cricket or in ODIs, the game is much slower and there’s time for even the coach to pass on information. But in the frenetic pace of highpressure tournaments like IPL, the captain plays a critical role and takes all major decisions himself. Though the evolution of T20s has brought with it a great deal of emphasis on data, planning and match-ups, the ability to think on your feet is still the key non-negotiable. As IPL-2023 moves to its grand finale, it’s worth underlining that it’s the top captains who seem to take their sides to IPL glory.

No team has been as successful in IPL history as Chennai Super Kings and much of that success is due to MS Dhoni. Chennai is the first team to be in this season’s final and this is the 12th time that they have qualified for the playoffs in 14 attempts. On Sunday, it will be Dhoni’s 10th final leading Chennai and if they win, that will be the 5th title in their cabinet.

Dhoni has always talked about focussing on process rather than doing anything out of the ordinary. Even against Gujarat Titans in the first Qualifier, it was clear that each batter had a specific role to play in setting up a stiff target. This is the specialty of the Chennai side that they give clear responsibilities to their players and then back them full tilt. It is one of the reasons why many players who are abandoned by other franchises, do well at Chennai – like Ajinkya Rahane this season.

Moreover, what makes Dhoni an exceptional skipper is that he is always aware of the match situation and pulled one out of his cap yet again when he spent time arguing with the umpires in the match versus Gujarat which enabled his vital pacer, Matheesha Pathirana, serving time being out of the field earlier, to come and bowl in the death overs. Most experts agree that Dhoni is the best captain in T20 cricket currently and can surely grab another title for CSK.

Then it’s Rohit Sharma marshalling the Mumbai Indians who are gunning for their 6th title. Between Dhoni and Rohit, they have 9 out of the total 15 IPL titles. It’s no wonder that after Virat quit captaincy, Rohit was made the Indian captain for all formats. His tactical manoeuvres plus his calm approach have become his strengths. Against Lucknow in the Eliminator, he was instrumental in selecting Akash Madhwal who picked up 5 wickets for 5 runs on the night winning the game easily for Mumbai.

But Rohit is still an underrated captain - compared to the likes of Dhoni or Virat Kohli. This opinion was also highlighted by Indian legend, Sunil Gavaskar as he talked about how Rohit has not got his due even after winning 5 IPL championships. Gavaskar pointed out that Rohit’s decision to bring Nehal Wadhera as an ‘impact player’ in the first innings which eventually worked well for Mumbai. Perhaps another IPL win will propel him to be talked of in the same breath as Dhoni!

The youngest among skippers in IPL 2023 is Gujarat Titans captain Hardik Pandya who statistically has become the most successful captain in IPL history. Besides leading his team to title triumph in its debut season last year, Hardik has the highest win percentage among players who have captained a minimum of 20 matches in the IPL. He tops the list with an over 70% win record as Gujarat captain. While his record speaks for itself, the crucial feature of Hardik’s captaincy is the sense of comfort he displays with his team. Most cricket experts are deeply impressed with Pandya’s captaincy and believe he can stake claim for Team India leadership even in one-dayers after the ODI World Cup this year. While defending IPL crowns is never easy, not many will be surprised if Pandya leads his team to triumph in IPL 2023.

Teams that have fared poorly like Delhi Capitals and Sunrisers Hyderabad are clear examples of confused leadership lacking clarity on how best to use their resources. In a fast-paced T20 game, captaincy remains the key to success. As IPL 2023 ends this weekend, it may well be that the best captain on the night of the final lifts the trophy. But irrespective of who grabs the glory, it’ll ultimately be a win for Indian cricket!


SIDDHAARTH MAHAN The writer is a specialist on Sports and Cinema who works as an actor in the Hindi fi lm industry

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