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8 greatest Indian Test captains of all time

Top 5 / Top 10
Modified 20 Dec 2019, 07:12 IST

Dhoni Gavaskar
MS Dhoni and Sunil Gavaskar were two of the best men to have led India in Tests

The Indian Cricket Team’s 500th Test match would commence on September 22 at the Green Park Stadium, Kanpur when the hosts take on New Zealand in the first test of the three-match series. The hosts have started bracing themselves for a stretch of 13 home Tests, which is likely to be the longest home season in their Test history, in terms of the number of Tests played.

At the opposite end of the eye-catching, vault-filling, crowd-garnering blitzkrieg cricket, this format requires players to be at their pinnacle of excellence. Having said that, it must also be mentioned that the term excellence is subjective. Sarfaraz Khan’s reverse right-handed batting for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL is as impressive as the dour and boring Alastair Cook defence that has led him to 10000 Test runs for England, although people may look at it in different ways. 

It isn't just the players who have to adjust now, switching from the orgasmic mode of cricket to the life-nurturing one, but also the men who lead them. Test match captaincy, in popular opinion, is regarded as one of the hardest jobs in cricket, and rightfully so.

A Test match is an amalgamation of a series of events, with most of them being independent of each other. It requires critical thinking over a sustained period of time, unlike the short, rapid tactics deployed in T20 cricket. Controlling the momentum of the game for 20 or 50 overs is far easier than controlling it for 5 days. Hence, Test captaincy comes with greater challenges. 

Over the years, India have had a glorious Test history. In that, although they have never been world beaters, they have always challenged and pushed to the limit the teams who have. India have been the trendsetters of legend-slaying, and it has come, it must also be mentioned, on the backs of several capitulations.

Behind the glory days have been some of the most enigmatic men that the game has ever seen, who have led the Indian cricket team through crests and troughs, and have been equally unaltered by both of them.

The BCCI has decided to felicitate all former India Test captains on the occasion of the 500th Test in Kanpur, and the Green Park is expected to be crowded by the legends of the game, come September 22. In the remembrance of Indian Test captains, here we have tried to analyse their performances and pick out 8 of the greatest men to have led the India in Tests.

#8 Sunil Gavaskar

Sunil Gavaskar
Sunil Gavaskar scored 774 runs in his debut Test series – against the West Indies – in 1971

The original ‘little master’ as he is popularly known to be, was the architect of India’s batting in Test matches throughout the 1970s and 1980s and created a sensation in the cricketing world immediately upon his arrival in 1971. In his debut Test series, Gavaskar amassed 774 runs against the mighty West Indians of that time and announced his presence as a fearless yet classical batsman.


Over the next seven years, the right-handed batsman from Mumbai went through several crests and troughs but eventually established himself as one of the finest batsmen that the world had ever seen.

Gavaskar was handed over the reins of the Test side in 1978, and his first assignment was against the West Indies, who travelled to India to play a 6-Test series. What unfolded was some riveting action of Test match cricket that saw the West Indians hanging on by a thread in the 3rd Test, losing the 4th and drawing the others.

This 1-0 victory was the beginning of a series of successes at home for India under Gavaskar, as Australia and Pakistan were beaten at home comprehensively in 1979/80, before India travelled to Australia and drew a 3 Test series 1-1. The 3rd Test of that series was remembered for India’s defence of a small target of 143 in the 4th innings at the MCG, where Australia were bundled out for a paltry 83, with Kapil Dev bagging 5 wickets.

The second half of his captaincy tenure was less successful for India, as they lost Test series in New Zealand, England, and Pakistan between 1981-83. However, they did beat England at home in 1980/81.

Gavaskar’s chief prodigy, it has to be said, was Kapil Dev, arguably the greatest all-rounder that India has ever seen. Dev scored over 2000 runs at an average of 35.24 and picked up 172 wickets at 29.65 while playing under Gavaskar. Apart from this prodigy, the spin quartet of S Venkatraghavan, BS Chandrasekar, E Prasanna and BS Bedi matured in the Gavaskar era, between 1978-85.

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Published 10 Jun 2016, 22:05 IST
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