Captaining a cricket team is a vital role in cricket that not many players can handle. There have been plenty of instances in the past where the burden and pressure that comes with captaincy affected top-quality players’ performances on the field.

Even the God of Cricket, Sachin Tendulkar was not spared from the downward spiral that one can find themselves drowning in due to the pressures of captaining a side.

After all, it is believed that in cricket that a captain’s role in affecting the fortunes of a team is even more important than that of the head coach. 

Add to that, the extra pressure is associated with the sport in general in the cricket-crazy nation of India and it is easy to understand why skippering the Indian cricket national team is not everyone's cup of tea.

Over the years, India has had the luxury of boasting some great captains who wrote their own glorious chapters in the annals of cricketing history. 

Whether it is Captain Cool, MS Dhoni’s calm and calculated approach to the game, or Virat Kohli’s unmatched aggression, there’s not one tried and tested method to being a successful captain with the Indian national team. With that in mind, let’s have a look at the most successful captain in India.

Most successful captain in India by wins

Rank Captain Captaincy Span Matches Wins Losses Win Percentage
1 MS Dhoni 2007-2018 332 135 60 53.61
2 Virat Kohli 2013-2022 213 178 120 63.38
3 Mohammad Azharuddin 1990-1999 221 104 90 47.05
4 Sourav Ganguly 1999-2005 195 97 78 49.74
5 Rohit Sharma* 2017-2023 80 62 18 77.50

*Captaincy reign currently active

MS Dhoni - 178 wins

Besides the legendary all-rounder Kapil Dev, MS Dhoni is the only other Indian captain to win a World Cup for the country. Dhoni, in fact, has two World Cup triumphs as Indian skipper under his belt. His first was the inaugural T20 World Cup triumph in South Africa in 2007, and his second was the 2011 ODI World Cup win which ended a 28-year wait for the most desired ODI  trophy after Kapil Dev led India to the title in 1983. Dhoni also won the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy with India and has the most wins as skipper of the national side with 178 wins from 332 games across cricket’s three formats. He also led India to the number ranking in the ICC Test rankings and is widely regarded as the greatest skipper the country has ever produced.

Virat Kohli - 135 wins

As far as win percentage as a skipper is concerned, only Rohit Sharma has a higher success rate (77.50) than Viart Kohli. The swashbuckling batter from Delhi has a 63.38 win percentage as India's skipper across formats and he scored a ton of runs for the team, not letting the pressure of captaincy affect his batting performance. He won 38 out of 69 series across formats as India's captain and has the most runs as a skipper. During his reign as skipper India was ranked one in all three formats of the game and he also led the team to the most Test wins besides also scoring 20 centuries as India’s red-ball captain. His win percentage of 63.38 is almost 10 more than MS Dhoni’s 53.61. With 135 wins, Kohli has the second-highest number of wins as India's captain in cricketing history.

Mohammad Azharuddin - 104 wins

Mohammad Azharuddin led India from 1990 to 1999 at a time when Indian cricket hadn’t scaled the heights of today. Still looking to establish themselves firmly as one of the big boys of the sport during Azharuddin’s reign as skipper, it is safe to say the elegant right-hander did an excellent job leading from the front both with the bat and on the field. An excellent fielder who wouldn’t be out of place in the modern era, Azharuddin has the third-highest wins (104) as an Indian skipper. He led India in three World Cups campaigns and had the best finish as a semi-finalist in 1996.  

Photo credit: Alamy