A leader is one who is expected to lead from the front. That is why it is always ideal to appoint the best cricketer to be the captain of the side which he represents. But it does not happen most of the times. The prime member of the squad, when given the captain’s role, begins to view the responsibility as a burden. That extra burden brings so much pressure on him that he quite often fails in the area in which he is otherwise very good at.
However, there have been only a very few individuals in the world of cricket who could thrive well as captains and also as players. Not only have they been at the helm of their respective teams but also have performed when it mattered the most. Their ice chill nature of theirs has often won so many matches for their teams from the brink of disaster.
Let me list out the five best captains’ knocks ever seen or heard in One day Internationals.
5. Ricky Ponting – Intimidation at its best:
Prior to the final, India’s only defeat in the 2003 World Cup came against Australia in the group stages. As it turned out – having performed better than any other side in the competition – the two teams met again in the final. It looked to be the perfect scenario for India to exact revenge on the players from down under in response to the humiliation which they suffered at the beginning of the World Cup. The team from subcontinent won the toss and chose to field first.
Right from the start, Australia maintained a high run rate with the opening duo of Gilchrist and Hayden amassing a 100-runs-partnership in just 13 overs. When Gilchrist got out, Hayden was joined by the Australian skipper Ricky Ponting. In a couple of overs, Haydos too got out, bringing a huge sigh of relief for the Indian team, having sent both the openers back to the pavilion. But little did they expect what was in stored for them then.
Helped by some mediocre bowling by the Indian bowlers, both Ponting and Damien Martyn gathered runs at a brisk rate. The Aussie skipper was particularly severe on all the short pitched balls bowled at him. The footwork of “Punter” was quite impressive and he was coming down the wicket at will, giving the spinners a belting to both sides of the wicket. The hapless Indian attack was put to the sword as Ricky took the innings away from the opposition in a hurry. He was well on his way to set a huge target which would be too much for any team to chase down in a big event such as a World Cup final.
He resembled Viv Richards of yesteryears every bit as the bowlers were subjected to an unprecedented onslaught. He pulverized the Indian bowling attack and hit them all over the park. He was not slogging but was finding the boundaries with proper cricketing shots. Due to his blitzkrieg of an innings, Australia posed an imposing total of 360 to chase for the Indian team. His innings was aided by four 4s and eight towering 6s. He finished his stint in the middle staying unbeaten on 140 off just 121 balls. Australia, I must say, had won the match even before the Indian innings started. The Australian captain was also declared the Man of the Match.
4. Imran Khan – The drive to succeed:
Imran Khan – arguably one of the best captains cricket has ever seen – had a drive to succeed when he captained his team in 1992 World Cup. Ever since the start of the mega event, he wanted to build a hospital in remembrance of his late mother, who he lost due to cancer. The prize money was planned to be donated for that cause. Last time when his team met England in the league stage, they were bowled out for a mere 74 runs on the board. However, rain intervened during the course of English innings, forcing the match to be called off. The match was drawn and the points were shared between the teams.
The same two teams met again in the Final of the World Cup down under. While England were easily one of the two best teams in the competition, the other one being New Zealand, Pakistan were struggling in the league stages before narrowly edging out the other teams to make it to the last four. Courtesy Inzamam’s brilliance in the semifinal against the Kiwis, Pakistan made it to the Final.
Pakistan batted first and disaster struck very early as both the openers were dismissed very cheaply. With pure batsmen like Javed Miandad and an in-form Inzamam waiting to bat, Imran promoted himself up the order to steady the innings. Accompanied by the then veteran of five World Cups, Javed Miandad, he stabilized the innings very well by building up a healthy partnership very smoothly. Their strike rates weren’t noteworthy but they made sure no more further damage was done. After the departure of Miandad, in came the hero of the semifinal against New Zealand. Inzamam played a blinder of an innings, quite suitable for the last few overs of an ODI. Imran did get out at the score of 72 after throwing caution to the winds in the later stage of the innings. In the end, his team left England to chase a tricky score of 250 runs at MCG.
Pakistani bowlers humbled English batsmen by taking wickets at regular intervals, bundling them out for just 227 runs. Quite appropriately, the final wicket of Illingworth was taken by the great captain, with Rameez Raza catching the Englishman out at mid-off.
3. Unseen epic at Tunbridge Wells:
The strike by BBC camera crew could not have come at a worse moment than this. Barring the spectators and the players themselves, none was able to witness the absolute fiesta which transpired during India’s match against Zimbabwe in the 1983 World Cup at Tunbridge Wells. The win was very much essential for India to qualify for the semifinal. It was the perfect English summer where the ball moved and swung appreciably.
Rawson and Kevin Curran ran through the top order pretty quickly and soon the Indian team was found reeling with five wickets down for just 17 runs. Things looked ominous for the team and it required a spirited fightback from a brave heart of the Indian team to set things straight. And who else but the greatest soldier came to the rescue of his team. India’s greatest all-rounder till date, Kapil Dev Ramlal Nikhanj, played the innings of his life to get his country a defendable total from that stage. Firstly, in the company of Roger Binny and then with Syed Kirmani as his partner, Kapil Dev crafted an epic innings. And due to this very fact that this gem of an action packed innings was never captured on camera, this innings would forever remain unseen for coming generations. Fortunate were those who were present at the stadium on that day when the Haryana Hurricane chose to annihilate the underdogs. He finished his innings with the score of 175 runs, having blasted 16 fours and six 6s.
India, thanks to the efforts of Kapil Dev, not only won this match by 31 runs but also went on to win the World Cup, thus becoming the first team to dethrone West Indies from the championship pedestal.
2. Mahendra Singh Dhoni – Taking responsibility upon his own shoulders:
One shot which has been repeatedly shown on TV for the last two years, since it happened, is Dhoni’s six over long on which won India only its second World Cup in ten attempts. At Wankahde stadium, on a pitch which didn’t offer much to the bowlers, India were able to restrict their opposition to 274 runs, thanks to the brilliant fielding efforts of Yuvraj and Virat Kohli during power plays earlier in the innings. But for those crucial stops, Sri Lanka’s late charge would have gotten them a score of over 300, which would have been much more difficult for the host nation to chase considering that it was a World Cup Final.
Indians began their innings in the most disastrous fashion possible, losing both Sehwag and Sachin with just 31 runs on the board. After getting arguably one of the world’s best batsmen out cheaply, Sri Lanka would have thought that the match was already under their grasp. But Gambhir and Kohli showed some steadiness in pacing the innings quite well, ensuring that the target did not go beyond the reach. When Virat got out, India’s score was 114/3 in 21.4 overs.
When everyone was expecting the man of the World Cup, Yuvraj Singh, to come and mould the innings along with Gambhir, Dhoni sprung a surprise, promoting himself up the order. Without losing his calmness, Dhoni not only showed his class but also his temperament, taking responsibility of getting India across the line upon his own shoulders. He paced his innings quite well alongside Gambhir and kept on manoeuvring the scoreboard with ones and twos. He justified his decision of elevating himself up the order by playing a memorable innings. Had he been dismissed cheaply and India lost the World Cup, the entire universe would have blamed him for coming to bat at No.5 ahead of Yuvraj Singh.
Nevertheless, nothing untoward had happened then and the Indian captain brought his side home with a magnificent six, ending one of his greatest one day innings in style. He might not have scored a hundred but he achieved what was more important for his team. His innings had eight 4s and two 6s in it.
1. Steve Waugh – Mystery words still to be deciphered:
“Mate, you have just dropped the World Cup.” Those were the words, which many believed, had come from the mouth of Steve Waugh when he was dropped by Herschelle Gibbs during the last of the Super Six games at Headingley in 1999 World Cup. After ages, the former Aussie captain denied it saying he did not exactly remember what his remark was. Though the mystery words are yet to be deciphered, the dropped chance by Gibbs did cost South Africa the match eventually. So, even if the Aussie skipper had not said that, the fact remains that South Africa gave away the advantage to Australia by giving Waugh another life in the middle.
South Africa were easily the favourites to win the contest to start with. Riding on Gibbs’ ton, their side posted an imposing score of 271. When you keep in reserve ‘plus 30 runs’ for South African fielding, it was a mammoth target for any team to chase, leave alone Australia who entered the Super Six stage with nil points on the board. It was a must win game for the Aussies to move to the semifinals. However, as the fate would have it, the Kangaroos lost their top three players with just 48 on the board.
As the adage goes, “cometh the hour cometh the man”, the determined captain of the Australian team, Steve Waugh entered the scene. A couple of wickets at that stage would have exposed the lower middle order which was not that strong. But Waugh played a remarkable innings, mixing caution with aggression quite impressively. At one point of time, when he was on 59, he offered a simplest of chances to Gibbs at short mid-wicket, which was lethargically dropped by Gibbs in a casual attempt to celebrate the wicket prematurely even before he had the ball in full control. It was then that the Aussie captain seemed to have said something to the fielder, which still remains a mystery.
Whatever it was, there was no stopping the elder of the Waugh brothers thereon. When the last over was being bowled, Waugh, at the non-striker’s end, was so desperate to take his team to the semifinals that even as Pollock was approaching the popping crease, he started jogging to ensure that the runs were taken, come what may. This one man show helped the boys from down under reach the semifinal with two balls to spare. He finished his herculean task staying unbeaten on 120 from just 110 balls and in the process hitting ten boundaries and two sixes.