Captaining an international team is never an easy task. It is one thing to be a very fine, talented player in your own right but there is no guarantee that such players would go on to become great or even successful captains for their country. There have been many captains in the history of the game that prove this point perfectly. In some cases, making players lead their side eventually led to their downfall.
Leadership is an art which not too many cricketers can imbibe. There are many cricketers who are comfortable performing what is expected from them at ease but seem lost when they put on the hat of the leader. On the outset, all attributes may seem to match as far a certain big player, but not all players are destined for captaincy, at least not in their playing days. There have been poor captains who have gone on to become pretty competent coaches for various teams.
There is no special mention given for a cricketer if he has won/lost games as captain of his side once he retires. The statistics that matter are the number of runs he scored and/or the wickets he took. Captaincy and the art of able to command that respect from your team members and win the support and love of the people of their country is never easy.
There have been many big names that have successfully transitioned into captaincy. But on the flip-side, there have been some really big names who have failed at captaincy.
Here’s looking at a list of 5 worst captains in the history of international cricket
1. Heath Streak- Zimbabwe
Bangladesh’s current crop of fast bowlers have improved in leaps and bounds in the past few years. And Heath Streak currently holds that accolade. Since becoming the bowling coach of the Bangla tigers, the likes of Rubel Hossain and Taskin Ahmed have flourished. Also, we are seeing the emergence and growth of Mustafizur Rehman as well.
During his days, he was a great bowler himself who was more than a handy batsman when needed. With bowling averages of 28 and 29 in Tests and ODIs, respectively, he stamped his authority as Zimbabwe’s greatest ever bowler. But not all successful players can become great captains, Heath Streak found this out in a hard way.
From 2000 to 2004, the current Bangladesh bowling coach led his country in 68 ODIs, losing a mammoth 47 games and winning only 18. It wasn’t the case where he was in charge of a very weak, hopeless team – they were definitely better than the current side and could have done much better than what records suggest. A combination of factors led to this dismal record for Streak as Zimbabwe’s skipper.
To be fair to Streak, though, the country went through and still is reeling under the ‘race row’. Preference has been given to players who are black or dark skin over the ones that are white-skinned. The cricket administration in the country must be blamed for the state cricket in Zimbabwe was under Streak’s reign as their skipper and even now. So the captain didn’t get his preferred choice of players which is an important aspect of winning games.
However, he still remains the greatest bowler his country has ever had and his performances as a captain were still praiseworthy, even though he couldn’t inspire his teammates to do the same – or like he has done with the bowlers of the Bangladesh cricket team.
2. Andrew Flintoff- England
Andrew Flintoff was a superstar between 2000-2005/2006 for England. The brilliant all-rounder couldn’t put a wrong foot in this period. His epic performance in the 2005 Ashes series that England won will be remembered for a long time. His famous tussle with Sourav Ganguly in Mumbai ensued in Ganguly removing his shirt in the balcony of Lord’s stadium when India won the NatWest tri-nation series. Such was his character, he bought the best from his opponents too.
If it wasn’t for a career plagued with injuries, he might have finished off as one of the top 3 all-rounders ever. Having him in the team was like having two players simultaneously. His destructive batting down the batting order could dent many oppositions and his more than handy fast bowling was an added bonus. But all that talent didn’t materialize into success as a captain.
He captained England in 11 Test games and had an atrocious record of 7 losses, 2 draws and 2 wins. Despite having an aggressive approach as a player, he couldn’t replicate it as a captain in a controlled way. Their Test team had some players in the old, traditional mindset which could be one of the reasons why he couldn’t extract favorable results as a skipper.
After captain Michael Vaughan and vice-captain Marcus Trescothick were declared unavailable, Flintoff was made the skipper of England for their tour of India in 2006. Playing an outstanding game against India in his first Test as a captain, where England won by 212 runs, many thought that he was destined to be a great captain for his country. England drew that 3-match series 1-1 and “Freddie” was named the captain for the 7-game ODI series.
However, things went downhill from there as they lost the series 5-1 with Flintoff being rested for two games. After that Flintoff won just 1 Test game as captain – against Sri Lanka – and had to face the humiliation of losing the Ashes 5-0 to Australia. His was a classic case of a very talented, famous player being thrust into captaincy when he clearly wasn’t ready for that challenge- not all cricketers can handle that challenge.
3. Brian Lara- West Indies
The best left-handed Test batsman of recent times, Brian Lara was the reference point for every aspiring cricketer in the world. His technique was outrageous and the way he played his shots were beyond the levels of description. Many experts compared him to Caribbean great Sir Garfield Sobers. Lara was a player who would have easily fit into the modern-day game- he had all the shots in the book.
If it weren’t for Sachin Tendulkar, he would have easily been the best Test batsman of his era – such was the power and magnitude of his talent. Scoring 400 runs in Tests for 11 players combined is a humongous task in itself – but Lara did that all on his own. He sadly carried the burden of his country when he was at his prime. Once he was dismissed most likely West Indies would collapse.
His record as ODI skipper was formidable. With a 50% win percentage from 125 ODIs, spanning over a period of 13 years, it was his leadership in Tests that left a lot to be desired and that record is the reason he finds himself in this dubious list. Commanding 47 games, he won only 10 games and lost 26 and had a win percentage of only 21.27%. It is indeed ironic that a batsman of his pedigree would be such a poor Test match skipper, but that had lots to do with the state of West Indies cricket at that time and the quality of players representing them.
What’s stranger is that despite having a poor record, he went on to captain the team for 9 years from 1997 to 2006. Perhaps the West Indies board found it impossible to strip a legend off the captaincy badge. And rightfully so, Lara had earned that respect for his years of unparalleled service for his team.
4. Sachin Tendulkar – India
What Sachin Tendulkar the batsman achieved- hundred international centuries is a record that’s going to take some beating. No one can ever question his talent and his contribution to the sport. But the topic of discussion here is his captaincy which was sadly a dent in his playing portfolio. He was made skipper in rather turbulent times, and never looked ready to lead the Indian side.
The Little Master had two spells as captain. The first one was in 1996. He lasted for a little time as the team was performing poorly. His second spell was even worse – which prompted him to resign from captaincy. In 25 Tests, he won just 4 games and had 23 victories from 73 ODIs. It seemed as though the captain’s tag wasn’t lucky for him even though Sachin has been accredited with a number of crucial decisions that went on to favor India.
The run-machine was always seen having discussions with captains – Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, and MS Dhoni – over his career and played a significant role in the on-field decisions made by them. It goes on to prove that he has loads of knowledge and inputs to share, but he was not the correct person who could command his troops when he was their leader. His god-gifted batting skills could have come in the way of him transitioning into a good captain.
In fact, when Rahul Dravid resigned as captain, the then BCCI president Sharad Pawar asked Tendulkar to take over the reins for the third time in his illustrious career – the latter refused the offer and asked MS Dhoni to be made the captain instead. He was the first one to see the potential of Dhoni as a captain and the rest, as they say, is history.
5. Chris Gayle- West Indies
Chris ”Universe Boss” Gayle is loved by everyone. A very entertaining batsman, he recently crossed 13,000 runs in T20s making him a superstar in his own league. A player who is very easy on the eye, even when he deposits balls into the stands clearly is not captain material. West Indies clearly didn’t have a clue as to what they were doing when they made Gayle the skipper post Brian Lara’s retirement.
It seems as though West Indies no longer produce captains like they once used to. The country that boasted of legendary captains like Clive Lloyd and Sir Viv Richards now find it hard to produce leaders like them anymore. Blame their domestic structure or the lure of the T20 leagues across the globe that’s diverting talented players away.
Replacing Lara as the captain was never going to be easy for Chris Gayle. However, his super-aggressive batting approach gave the impression that the West Indies would have a more attacking mindset under his stewardship. As it turned out, though, Gayle disappointed fans big time. Someone like Shivnarine Chanderpaul was the ideal candidate to lead the side but was overlooked for the flamboyance that Gayle bought to the table.
His record as a captain in ODls was far worse than Lara’s. With just 17 wins from 53 games and 30 defeats to top it off, he is the perfect example of why cricketers with a laid back attitude must stay away from captaincy. One can never know what the West Indies board were thinking when they appointed him as captain. But he caps off a list of many big names, icons who just failed to convert their talent as players into becoming successful captains.
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