India’s sporting health largely rests on one man: the captain of the Indian cricket team.
Every Indian cricket captain carries the burden of expectations from a billion-strong country that reveres the sport as a religion.
From CK Nayudu, the first captain of the Indian cricket team, to Ajinkya Rahane, the Indian cricket team has had 33 captains so far in Test matches and 24 in ODIs. Here are some who have been an inspiration in their era.
Tiger Pataudi: The man who lost an eye but showed Indian cricket vision
Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi was undoubtedly one of India’s greatest ever cricket captains.
A trip down memory lane. This one's from the archives. MAK Pataudi with Sir Don Bradman. Priceless! pic.twitter.com/PsAJtzwNSQ— BCCI (@BCCI) November 29, 2015
Famously known as Tiger Pataudi, he became the captain of the Indian team at a tender age of just 21 - the youngest ever captain of India to this day. Interestingly, Pataudi completely changed how the game was played in the country by instilling a winning mentality in his team-mates, leading India to their first overseas Test victory in 1967.
Despite suffering a tragic accident that left him with visual impairment in his right eye, Pataudi led India in 40 out of 46 Tests he played, winning nine of them. Under his captaincy, India defeated New Zealand in a Test series in 1967 which marked the country's first overseas series victory.
Kapil Dev: The captain who led India to maiden World Cup title win
Under the leadership of the great Kapil Dev, India lifted their first-ever cricket World Cup title by defeating the mighty West Indies in the finals of the 1983 Cricket World Cup. This win completely changed cricket forever in the country, elevating the sport to become a religion.
#OnThisDay in 1983, India won their maiden Men's @cricketworldcup title 🏆— ICC (@ICC) June 25, 2020
Kapil Dev and his side stunned defending champions West Indies, beating them by 43 runs in a memorable final at Lord's 🙌 pic.twitter.com/DVchvVLH5P
He became the captain when the West Indies dominated world cricket and Kapil Dev led his team to win a match against the Caribbeans in his first ODI series as a captain. According to the winning members of the 1983 World Cup-winning Indian cricket team, that victory gave them the confidence to face the West Indies in the 1983 World Cup final. Kapil Dev captained India in 74 One Day Internationals (ODIs), winning 39 of those matches at a win percentage of 54.16. He had also led the Indian cricket team in 34 Tests, securing four victories under his captaincy.
Mohammad Azharuddin: The only Indian captain to have led the country in three World Cups
Mohammad Azharuddin, who became the captain of the Indian cricket team succeeding Krishnamachari Srikkanth in 1989, is the only Indian captain to have led the country in three World Cups. Azhar captained India in three editions of the World Cup in 1992, 1996, and 1999.
He also captained India in 47 Tests and won 14 of them, which was a record for India until Sourav Ganguly went on to win 21 of his 49. A resourceful captain, he ensured India were ‘Tigers’ at home having won 13 of the 19 Tests in the country. Under him, a young Sachin Tendulkar also flourished and went on to become a great.
In ODIs, Azharuddin was the most successful Indian captain with 90 victories in 174 matches which has been overtaken by MS Dhoni. He captained India in 174 ODIs and 47 Tests before a match-fixing scandal in 2000 abruptly ended his career.
Sourav Ganguly: The man who had an eye for scouting talent
Affectionately known as Dada, Sourav Ganguly is considered by many as the best captain of the Indian cricket team. ‘The Prince of Calcutta’ was instrumental in spotting young talents, some of whom have turned into match winners today. The likes of Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh all started their careers under Ganguly. Under his captaincy, India played a super aggressive brand of cricket and even got on top of the opposition.
Sourav Ganguly also instilled confidence in the Indian team to win overseas. He led India to the finals of the 2003 ICC World Cup, losing to the mighty Australian side. India also dramatically clinched the Natwest series against England in 2002 under Ganguly where he took off his jersey and waved it from the Lord's balcony after a thrilling finish. Sourav Ganguly led India in 146 ODIs and 49 Test matches.
MS Dhoni: The only captain to win all the major ICC events
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the most successful Indian cricket captain, who has led the side to the 2011 ICC World Cup triumph and 2007 T20 World Cup victory, the latter in his captaincy debut. Under his reign, India rose to become the No. 1 Test side.
The Indian cricket team also clinched the Champions Trophy in 2013 under his leadership, making him the only captain in world cricket to win all the major ICC events. ‘Captain Cool’ led India in limited-overs formats from 2007 to 2016 and in Test cricket from 2008 to 2014. Dhoni was at the forefront for Team India in 200 ODIs, 60 Tests and 72 T20Is.
Virat Kohli: The most successful Indian Test captain
Virat Kohli is the most successful Test captain in the history of Indian cricket with the most number of wins (33) leading the side in 56 matches so far. He also holds the record for consecutive Test series wins (9) as a captain from 2015–2017 (equal with Ricky Ponting from 2005–2008). In the 2018-19 Border Gavaskar Trophy, Kohli became the first Indian and also the first Asian skipper to win a Test series in Australia.
Interestingly, Virat Kohli had captained India Under-19s to victory at the 2008 Under-19 World Cup in Malaysia. Kohli has led India in 92 ODIs, 56 Tests and 40 T20Is.