5 captains who introduced revolutionary moves in cricket

Greg Chappell devised putting nine fielders at slip instead of the usual one or two

The saying, 'Improvise or perish' is true in cricket as well. Cricket is a sport that demands mental strength as much as physical strength and on most occasions, the former is the difference between a victory and a defeat.

The captains spearhead the department of strategy formations in cricket and they have to keep themselves on their toes to ensure that they have the upper hand in the contest. Innovation is the key to strategy formation and hence some of the most successful captains are the ones who innovated frequently.

Let us discuss the top five such captains who innovated to perfection and brought something new to the table.

#5. Nine slip fielders by Greg Chappell

The slip fielders are stationed to convert an outside edge into a wicket. Depending on the quality of the batsmen, the bowler's caliber and the match-situation, captains decide the number of slip fielders.

Generally, one or two slips are stationed during a normal situation while three slips is an indication of a situation when the bowler is on top. More slip fielders are a reflection of the dominance of the fielding side.

But how many slip fielders can or should a captain have?

Greg Chappell gave the perfect answer to the question in 1976 when he put all his men in the slip cordon in the Test against New Zealand.

On the bowling of Dennis Lillee, one of the fastest bowler the world has ever seen, Chappell asked everyone except the bowler and the wicket-keeper to move in the slip region. Interestingly the batsman, Glenn Turner wasn't any novice, he was, in fact, one of the pillars of New Zealand's batting line-up.

The sight of nine men standing in the slip region was incredible and it must have been a tough decision for Chappell to make.

Apart from Chappell, only Steve Waugh showed the courage to use all nine fielders in the slip region but he contested this experiment against Zimbabwe, a weaker opponent.

#2. The pinch hitter by Martin Crowe

Crowe s
Crowe sent Mark Greatbatch (pictured), a tailender, up the order

Promoting a tailender in the batting order is not a new concept in cricket. The 'night watchmen' have been used since time eternal and their role is also well-defined.

The night watchmen are used to guard the main batsmen and the role of these watchmen is to simply block and survive the ordeal.

In 1992, Martin Crowe gave this concept of sending a tailender at the top of the order a completely new dimension and thus emerged the term, 'pinch-hitter'. The New Zealand captain promoted Mark Greatbatch in the batting order and asked him to swing his arms freely to anything that was bowled to him.

Crowe's plan was simple. If Greatbatch was successful then the team would gain quick runs and if he failed then there was very little to lose as he wasn't a frontline batsmen.

To New Zealand's joy, their pinch hitter was indeed successful as so was their skipper's strategy. Pinch-hitters have become extremely common in modern cricket and it has also led to the creation of 'utility cricketers' who don't excel in any one skill but can do a little of batting as well as bowling.

The advent of T20 cricket has made pinch-hitting a mandatory skill and has reflected the effectiveness of Crowe's move.

Crowe pioneered the concept of pinch-hitter in ODI cricket

#3. MS Dhoni's field placement

Sussex v India - Tour Match

In the IPL final of 2010, Mumbai was facing an uphill task and their hopes were pinned on Kieron Pollard for whom the situation was tailor-made to explode.

However, MS Dhoni kept his calm and kept his mid-off fielder extremely straight as he knew Pollard loved hitting straight. The ploy worked, Pollard was trapped and Chennai Super Kings pocketed their maiden IPL trophy.

Along with his incredible calmness, Dhoni's captaincy is also famous for creative field-settings. The maverick leader from India is credited for introducing several innovative field positions which have proved effective and impactful.

The field positions like leg-slip for a spinner and an extra man at catching position on the off-side is Dhoni's legacy in ODI cricket.

#2. Using spinner as opening bowler - Martin Crowe

A portrait of Dipak Patel
Dipak Patel was among the first spinners to bowl with the new ball, courtesy Martin Crowe

The batsman marks his guard, all fielders take their position with eyes fixed at the crease, the umpire looks around, puts his hand down and shouts, 'Play'.

And then the bowler runs in and delivers the bowl with pace to the batsman. Until 1992, this was how a normal cricket match would start, with a pace bowler having the new ball.

But in 1992, Martin Crowe happened and he changed the opening scene of a cricket match. Instead of a pacer, he used a spinner to open the bowling and injected innovation in ODI cricket.

In Dipak Patel, Crowe discovered a spinner who wasn't afraid of getting hit for runs and was brave enough to bowl when only two fielders were permitted outside the thirty-yard circle. Patel had a mind of a pacer and had the ability to control the hard new ball with ease.

Crowe first utilized this strategy of offering the new ball to the spinner in the 1992 world cup match against Australia and the success of this strategy forced captains across the world to follow suit.

#1. Firing from the beginning - Arjuna Ranatunga

Arjuna Ranatunga of Sri Lanka
Arjuna Ranatunga brought excitement to the initial overs of ODI cricket

In its early days, ODI cricket was seen as a shorter version of Test cricket and hence players simply borrowed the principles of Tests in ODIs.

One of such principles that came from Tests to ODIs was about the approach towards batting. Batsmen came to ODI cricket with the mindset of playing long innings and not going for their strokes without getting set.

This meant that the initial overs in ODIs were quiet as batsmen weren't ready to take risks. New Zeland tried to break this rule by using Mark Greatbatch as a pinch hitter in the 1992 world cup.

But the idea to have two aggressive openers who have the license to throw their bats at anything from the word go was first implemented by Sri Lanka in the 1996 world cup. And the mastermind behind this innovative strategy was Arjuna Ranatunga.

The Sri Lankan captain gave complete liberty to Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana who went to the crease and destroyed the opponent with their aggressive batting.

This strategy enabled Sri Lanka to take complete toll of the powerplay overs and the rest of the world soon filled their opener's slot with aggressive batsmen.

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Edited by Anuradha Santhanam