Cricket – As soon as we read this word incarnated from the field of sport, our eyes get lit up experiencing a sense of happiness. The sport which is been played between 22 individuals is opined by millions, if not more. The expectations surrounding those 11 individuals representing the nation reaches the highest echelon on almost every occasion – especially from the player who is leading the team.
Generally known as the ‘captain’ is certainly the most important member of the team who takes some impactful decisions which are felt deep across the layers of the team. A poor process and slim thoughts invite risk and disaster, while a well-considered and inviting process can establish a foundation for progress and success. Unlike other sports, the role of captain becomes even more pivotal and holds more significance than a coach as most decisions on the field are taken instinctively.
Surprisingly, in the last year or two, the cricketing nations around the globe have made some interesting calls for captaincy position which has made the cricket manual to rescript. It has been seen that the national cricket boards have gone with fresh faces or with whom who haven’t featured in the team for long.
With this, CricTracker brings to you five players who became unexpected captains:
1. Tim Paine
Unsurprisingly, first in the list is Australia’s Test captain, Tim Paine. In 2017, he had all but given up hopes of making an international comeback and even contemplating a post-cricket career with sports equipment manufacturer Kookaburra. Then, all of a sudden, destiny played its role and the selectors picked him for the 2017 Ashes against England. He had not played a Test for seven years after a serious finger injury in an ACA All-Stars game put his future in doubt.
In the aftermath of the ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town, Steve Smith and David Warner were stood down, and Paine found himself taking temporary charge in the middle of the Test match. Following Smith and Warner’s one-year bans, Paine was announced as permanent captain, capping one of the most dramatic career turnarounds in recent times.
Interestingly, he has been able to lead the team from the front and made some interesting calls through the Ashes 2019 series against England to help the team retain the urn. His current performance has proved that he has thick skin and has eventually put all criticism to rest.
2. Misbah ul Haq
It is generally believed that at the age of 36 – a sportsman’s career is coming to an end. However, similar wasn’t the case with former Pakistan captain, Misbah ul Haq. At the age of 36 and had played just 19 Test matches over eight years since debut when he took the reins for Pakistan. Interestingly enough, a few months before his captaincy debut, he was contemplating retirement from all forms of cricket.
In 2010, Pakistan cricket fell into crisis after three cricketers were charged with spot-fixing. Butt had already been the third captain Pakistan had tried that year; Shahid Afridi had retired from Tests, and Mohammad Yousuf had lost seven straight games in Australia. Meanwhile, the senior-most member of the team, Younis Khan, was feuding with the board chairman, Ijaz Butt. So, Misbah not only returned to the Pakistan team but was named a captain.
It was a decision that came without the selectors’ nod, and Mohsin Khan, Pakistan’s chief selector at that time. As things turned out, Misbah went on to become Pakistan’s most successful Test captain and led the side for seven years before retiring in 2017, at the age of 43. Recently, Misbah has been chosen as the head coach and chief selector of Pakistan team and will be looking to inject his pivotal experience in the national team.
3. Dimuth Karunaratne
Dimuth Karunaratne came to captaincy at a time of extreme vulnerability. When the star sensation took the charge of Sri Lankan team, the players already looked shattered and slumped to a quiet place. Before his first series at the helm he seemed like a farmer who had inherited an operation where the crops had been burned, the barn was on fire, and whose fences had been torn apart, and yet somehow he managed to strap all his livestock to the same plough and had them pulling in the same direction.
A middling World Cup as ODI captain followed, and unless you’re the kind of hyper-optimistic fan who goes to sleep in a Sri Lanka shirt and craps blue and yellow, a middling World Cup was the best that could have been hoped for. Through the course of it, Karunaratne showed the glimpse of what he is capable of and eventually went onto produce some clinical performance while leading the team from the front.
Sri Lankan team performed extensively well in his leadership in the recently concluded New Zealand series, where they were able to upstage the World Cup runner ups comprehensively. Months down the line, the supporters will be expecting Karunaratne to get the team back on track so that the lost cricket is found.
4. Gulbadin Naib
From the point of view of cricketing fraternity, Afghanistan’s Gulbadin Naib leading team into the World Cup was one of the most questionable calls in the history of the game. Just before the start of the World Cup, the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) had sacked Asghar Afghan – who supposedly had done a pretty good job to help the team play the World Cup. However, in all circumstances, Naib getting captaincy baton was looking slim – but what followed was absolute turnaround with ACB doing the unexpected.
In the recently concluded World Cup, Afghanistan team looked all over the place and happens to lose on all nine occasions. The team which was expected to be the dark horse of the tournament failed to give a fight to any of the nine teams who participated in the quadrennial tournament. That wasn’t all. Phil Simmons, whose tenure as their coach ended after the tournament, came out threatening to expose the truth behind the team’s World Cup mess, including the controversial removal of Afghan as captain, suggesting disquiet in the ranks.
Post horrific run, the questions were raised – rightly so – on Naib’s captaincy and his short career as captain was closed permanently. Afghanistan board has now invested in young Rashid Khan to lead the side in all three formats of the game and the star sensation has already been able to prove his worth in lone Test against Bangladesh.
5. Kieron Pollard
Last on the list and the latest member to be added here is Kieron Pollard. Following a disappointing performance at the World Cup and thereafter a complete whitewash against India, Kieron Pollard replaced Jason Holder and Carlos Brathwaite as skippers of ODI and T20I teams.
Incidentally, the current CWI administration, led by Ricky Skerritt, had resuscitated Pollard’s career, which seemed to have gone off the rails under the previous board administration led by Dave Cameron. The differences between Cameron’s administration and some of the senior players, including Pollard and former West Indies captain Dwayne Bravo, formed part of a sorry chapter in West Indies cricket. The two players were not included in the 2015 World Cup and were kept out after that too, forcing Bravo to retire in 2017.
However, with Pollard, 32, this remains to be seen if he can serve West Indies cricket for long. From 1975 to today – West Indies cricket has been on the downslide. In the current situation, the management needs someone as flamboyant as Pollard to get things back on track. Pollard’s first captaincy assignment will be against Afghanistan and that too in Indian conditions – which can be termed as a feather on the platter.
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