In the game of cricket, captains play a very important role. They carry the responsibility on their shoulders to drive the team to glory with their strategies, tactics and intelligence on the field. Being the face or the representative of the entire team makes him the torchbearer as well as the decision-maker while leading the entire squad. A skipper must guide the team to display their best game on-field individually and share success with everyone who is involved in achieving the milestone. Cricket has had some uniquely skilled captains over the period and XploreSports lists down 10 best cricket captains of all time who have conquered the big stage and led their troops with some breathtaking individual performances in demanding situations when it mattered the most.
#10 Mahela Jayawardene (Sri Lanka)
Jayawardene is undoubtedly one of the best batsmen that Sri Lanka has ever produced. Adding to that he has also been a prolific skipper who led the side between 2004-2013. He is regarded as the pioneer of Sri Lankan cricket and his incredible performance in the 2007 Cricket World Cup grabs him the spot among the 10 best cricket captains of all time. Jayawardene scored one century and four half-centuries in the entire tournament and the century against New Zealand in the semi-final helped them progress to finals to face Australia.
With the likes of Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Chaminda Vass, Muttiah Muralitharan and others, Jayawardene led a balanced side during his captaincy. He was the recipient of International Cricket Council’s Captain of the Year 2006 and Captain of the World ODI XI. He was also a key player for Sri Lanka when they lifted the 2014 ICC T20 World Cup. He was also an essential part of the team that made it to the finals of 2007, 2011 Cricket World Cup and 2009 and 2012 ICC T20 World Cup. During his tenure as a captain, he achieved an overall win percentage of 54.3 % registering 101 wins in 186 matches.
#9 Viv Richards (West Indies)
One of the greatest batsmen cricket has ever witnessed, Sir Viv Richards led the West Indies side between 1984-1991. As a skipper, he won 27 of 50 Test matches and lost only 8. He is the only West Indies captain in history who has never lost a test series. Richards took the baton of captainship from the great Clive Lloyd after he announced retirement in 1985.
Among captains who have led in a minimum of 50 Tests, Richards’ record as captain is next only to Steve Waugh’s and Ricky Ponting’s with a win percentage of 54%. He was an aggressive leader and was often a subject of controversy when he led the Caribbean troop. Richards was chosen by Wisden as the greatest ODI batsman of all time and the third greatest Test batsman only after Sir Don Bradman and Sachin Tendulkar.
#8 Sourav Ganguly (India)
After Tendulkar stepped down from captaincy, Ganguly took the responsibility to lead the side amid all the controversy of the match-fixing scandal. His term as a captain fetched positive results for the team and Ganguly led the Indian team to the finals of the ICC Knockout Trophy in 2000. India emerged as a stronger side under Ganguly away from home in Tests. Under the leadership of Ganguly, India played 28 matches away from home and won 11 with a win percentage of 39.3% in tests. During the time when India struggled to win ODI overseas, Ganguly made a transition and won 58 matches with a win percentage of 52.3%.
Ganguly’s most controversial act was during the final match of 2002 NatWest ODI series against England. After a stunning performance from Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif, Ganguly took off his shirt in the Lord’s balcony and waved it in the air to celebrate the win and give Andrew Flintoff a taste of his own medicine. In the 2003 ICC World Cup, Team India struggled in the first two matches but later marched towards the finals by winning next 8 games on a trot. Ganguly led India from the front. He scored three centuries in the tournament and was the second-highest run-getter but failed at the finish line. However, Ganguly’s World Cup campaign will always be remembered and without any second thought, he features amongst the 10 best cricket captains of all time.
#7 Imran Khan (Pakistan)
The current Prime Minister of Pakistan had an eminent cricketing career and is widely acknowledged as Pakistan’s most successful cricket captain. Till date, he is one of the finest all-rounders to have ever played this beautiful game of cricket. He took over the captaincy baton from Javed Miandad in 1982. As a captain, Imran Khan played 48 Test matches, of which 14 were won by Pakistan, 8 lost and the remaining 26 were drawn. He holds a very handy win percentage of 55.92% in the ODI’s as well.
He was undoubtedly the nation hero when he lifted Pakistan’s maiden World Cup when he led the team to victory in 1992. What made this World Cup win even more emphatic is the story behind it. After the 1987 World Cup that was co-hosted by India and Pakistan, Imran Khan announced his retirement from international cricket. However he was asked to return to the captaincy by the then President Zia-Ul-Haq. After the comeback, there was no stopping Imran Khan as he led his team to their first and only World Cup that ranks him on our list of 10 best cricket captains of all time.
#6 Hansie Cronje (South Africa)
There was time when the Proteas dominated the world cricket with a team full of exceptional players and outstanding all-rounders. Leading them from the front was Hansie Cronje who is perhaps the only player who is remembered for his brilliant captaincy rather than the player himself, who confessed his involvement in the match-fixing scandal that stunned the cricketing fraternity and fans. Cronje started his career for South Africa in the year 1992. Despite being the youngest member in the team he was elected as the vice-captain first in 1993–94.
Kepler Wessels, another South African legend who was the captain of the side was injured and this led to Hansie Cronje being appointed as the stand-in captain. He took the baton of captaincy from Kepler in the year 1995 and led South African team in the 1996 World Cup. While he could not guide his team to glory by winning any ICC trophies, he ranks among the 10 best cricket captains of all time. He holds the record of 23 wins in his 53 test matches, with just 11 losses. Under his captaincy he won 99 ODI’s registering a victory percentage of 73.7%. He along with coach Bob Woolmer were a deadly pair, which brought many wins to the nation. Hansie Cronje was a national hero as South Africa’s captain until cricket’s biggest match-fixing scandal destroyed his cricketing career in the year 2000.
#5 Kapil Dev (India)
Kapil Dev is one among the greatest captains India has ever had. A legendary icon who evoked the feeling of nationalism when he lifted India’s first World Cup at Lord’s in the year 1983. He made his debut as a captain in 1982 and took the responsibility from the great- Sunil Gavaskar. He was an exceptional all-rounder and he stood for the team when it mattered the most. During the 1983 World Cup when India were 9/4 against Zimbabwe, Kapil Dev came in and put up a match-winning contribution of 175 to pull the side back from lethal carnage to sustain in the tournament.
He became India’s first cricketing hero and the embodiment of self-belief when he lifted the World Cup trophy after beating the invincible West Indies team in the final. He captained the Indian team from 1982-1987 in 74 matches with a win record of 39 matches that constitutes to 54.16% of overall victories. The 24-year old Kapil Dev still remains the youngest captain ever to bring home the highest honour in the world of cricket and the list of best cricket captains of all time would be incomplete without adding the legends name.
#4 Steve Waugh (Australia)
Regarded as the most poised captain in Cricket, Steve Waugh led the Australian side from 1997-2002. He led the Australian cricket team to lift the World Cup trophy in 1999. He captained the team for a total of 106 ODI matches and registered 67 wins and 35 losses with a 65.23% winning record. The ICC Hall of Fame player became only the third player to touch 10,000 Test runs. Under his leadership, Australia went from being a very good team to one of the all-time great ones.
Along with Tom Moody, Waugh became the first Australian to win the World Cup twice. In the 1999 World Cup, Australia struggled in the group stage but Waugh was consistent with his performance and he was also the second highest run-getter in the tournament, falling a shy short of 400 runs. He had his most remarkable records against England at the Ashes and with 41 matches won and only 9 matches lost with a winning ratio of 72% he is considered the most successful Test captain in cricket history.
#3 Clive Lloyd (West Indies)
Considered to be the greatest of all time, Clive Lloyd captained the West Indies side between 1974 and 1985 to become the most dominant test playing team in cricket history. During his leadership the West Indies side had a run of 27 matches without tasting defeat, which included 11 wins on a trot. With a squad full of brutal batsmen and toe-crunching bowlers West Indies dominated world cricket during his leadership.
Lloyd captained the West Indies in three successive World Cup’s. He led them to lift the World Cup in 1975, 1979 and only fell short to achieve a hat-trick milestone after the team tasted defeat in the 1983 finals against the underdogs-India. Two titles. One runner-up spot and a 88% ODI win percentage, Clive Llyod ranks amongst the best of the best and features on our list of best cricket captains of all time.
#2 Ricky Ponting ( Australia)
History will forever remember this man who led the most dominant Aussie side in world cricket. He built a team that was unstoppable and on paper the star- studded line up gave goosebumps to any opposition team during the ‘golden era’ of the Australian National Team. He is the most successful world cup captain and led Australia to 48 Test wins and 165 ODI wins in a staggering 324 international games with a winning ratio of 67.91%.
A team compromising of Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Damien Martyn, Michael Bevan, Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee and Ponting himself recorded a unbeatable winning streak in the 2003 as well as the 2007 World Cup. He also led Australia to a successive ICC Champions trophy victory in 2006 and 2009. As Australia became world beaters during his tenure the team consistently ranked No.1 in all formats.
Individually speaking, his bat always did the talking as he stood up for the team. The 2003 Final against India where he scored a century, shattered dreams of every Indian is the brightest benchmark in Ponting’s career. For his tremendous performances and greatest captaincy he ranks second among the best cricket captains of all time in our list.
#1 MS Dhoni (India)
Many came but only a few conquered and only MS Dhoni‘s stint as a captain will always be cherished in history. Leading from the front when the most senior players struggled he won the inaugural T20 World Cup just months after being appointed as the captain of Indian National Team. He set a benchmark for future captains with his tactical nuance that still makes the cricket fans go crazy when he steps on the field with loud rants echoing “Oh Captain, My Captain“!
Unarguably the greatest and the most successful captain, he is the only skipper to win all ICC trophies. He stood up to the responsibility during the 2011 World Cup when the biggest event was hosted in the sub-continent and ended the 28 year drought to lift the trophy by finishing off in style. From his non-conventional approach to the role of a captain to taking stringent decisions of dropping the most senior players of the team he revolutionized Indian cricket to a whole new level. His oversees achievements to ranking India No.1 in all formats makes him top our list of 10 best cricket captains of all time. Overall, MSD has captained in 200 matches for India and has won 110 matches, with an overall win ratio of 59.52%.