Finding cricket’s greatest captain
Share this on

Finding cricket’s greatest captain

Humans as a species have a habit of measuring everything. Right from human emotions to happiness and influence, we have devised ways to measure anything. Sorry this isn’t about Klout or klouchebag but about ranking cricket captains across decades or eras and coming with a top 10 list. Can we do that?

Looks like we can but if you start now you will be the second person to do it. Satyam Mukherjee of Northwestern University has used Google Pagerank algorithm to rank cricket captains from 1877 to 2010. And what did the algorithm spit out?

Steve Waugh who captained Australia in the nineties and well into the 2000’s is the best test captain ever; Steve Waugh doesn’t figure in the ODI top 20 list;

Ricky Ponting is the top ODI captain and the third best test captain.

Graeme Smith is the most consistent captain with a #2 position in both forms of the game.

Here is the gist :


Quite a few observations can be drawn from just those 10 lines. The best captain is obviously Steve Waugh, many reading this could probably relate to it because we have watched him play and lead at the same time, not a quality many captains have.

Some observations

When you match the best captain’s table with the best test team table, Steve Waugh’s team comes at 9 and 10th position. That’s is ironic because of the fact that Steve Waugh has become the best captain of the history with just the 10th best team in the history. I am not sure if we should mix these things up but that’s what I could infer.

Another little surprise for my Indian fans is the presence of MS Dhoni in the list. On first look that makes sense. But if we read it a little closer, the chart is really for test matches and Dhoni’s heroics were in one-day internationals and twenty-twenty matches. I haven’t heard from anyone that Dhoni is a good test captain. May be I haven’t heard much.

When it comes to ODI’s Dhoni’s is placed at eight position which I think is just fine.

Yet another observation is the top 3 placed captains are from the current era. Have the number of matches played influenced this? We know for a fact that there was too much cricket played in a calendar year. This is before twenty-twenty became more than a fantasy. With that, the top 3 placed captains might have an unfair advantage to earlier era captains because of the sheer number of matches played (and won).

One-day Internationals

In One-day internationals, India has a bigger chunk. A total 0f 5 captains made it to the list the most from any country. MS Dhoni, Kapil Dev, Sourav Ganguly, Mohammad Azharuddin and Rahul Dravid. Everybody might be a little surprised by the presence of Rahul Dravid’s name on the list. Yet India is placed at number 6 (right below Pakistan and just above New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh) in the overall team rankings from 1971 to 2010.

Pakistan and West Indies too has produced 3 captains each across the eras. Most notably thing however is 2 captains from South Africa – Hansie Cronje and Graeme Smith. That’s because, South Africa didn’t play cricket for the better part of 1971-2010 (for ODI’s) and only came to play the game internationally after 1991.

The rub-off

The good thing about the ranking and the paper presented by Mr. Mukherjee is the quality of win matters more than the sheer number of wins. What it probably doesn’t consider is the legacy and inheritance of these teams which might have played a part.

Steve Waugh’s captaincy and the team’s winning attitude might have rubbed on to Ricky Ponting. Same is the case with MS Dhoni who has inherited Sourav Ganguly’s legacy. Most importantly the team’s these captains got were well built already. In the test rankings Sourav Ganguly is placed at number 15, the only Indian captain on the list other than Dhoni.

Go through the paper and let us know what you could infer.