India is the team to beat on the international circuit at the moment and is enjoying a reputation similar to that of the Australian or West Indies teams of years gone by. That’s especially the case in the shorter format of the game, and plenty of the credit has to go to Virat Kohli. His 36 wins make him the most successful skipper in Indian cricketing history. But does that also make him the greatest? If not, who are the other candidates for the title?
The case for Kohli
There’s no denying Kohli’s skill with the bat. He has nothing to prove and has been a run machine for his nation with more than 7,000 test match runs and more than 12,000 in ODIs, both with averages well into the 50s. It’s meant that he can lead by example, and his pugnacious attitude has given India a steely edge. The downsides? Well, major international trophies have eluded him, and when you read the international cricket news online, the Kohli headlines are as likely to be about him getting into another controversy as anything else.
M S Dhoni
Dhoni’s boots were tough ones to fill. As a player, he was not at the same level as Kohli, but then again who is? But here was a man for whom all of India had a real warmth and affection. He also managed to get the best out of his team in the most high-pressure situations, while taking little credit for himself. The 2011 World Cup is the example that sticks in everyone’s minds, but there was also the T20 World Cup in 2007 and the ICC Champions Trophy in 2013.
If ever a man was handed a poisoned chalice, it was Ganguly. It was he who was given the task of leading India out of the dark days of the match fixing scandal in 2000, but the way he managed to turn things around was nothing short of inspirational. Quiet, studious and humble, Ganguly could not have been more different to the abrasive Kohli, but he was exactly what Indian cricket needed at that pivotal point in its history.
He was one of those talents that appears once in a generation, and he led India to arguably their most famous victory ever. The 1983 World Cup signalled India’s arrival as a serious competitor on the international stage. Kapil was predominantly considered a bowler who could bat a bit, but he had a habit of scoring the big runs when it mattered. Who can forget that unbeaten 175 against Zimbabwe, or the day he hit Eddie Hemmings for four consecutive sixes to save the follow on against England?
We can’t discuss great captains without mentioning Wadekar. He laid the foundations in the early 1970s for India to become the cricketing superpower that it is today, and led his nation to its first wins against the likes of England and the West Indies.