SK Flashback: India's courageous captains of cricket
"The Bloodbath of Sabina Park" is not an event likely to be remembered fondly in the annals of Indian cricket history. Yet, perched as the team currently is, right at the top of the heap in the ICC Test rankings, such events do assist in putting into perspective the slow and painful process, the heroic individuals, and the massive time and effort it has taken for Indian cricket to reach the very top.
In the fourth Test of the 1976 tour of the West Indies, in the island of Jamaica, captain Bishan Singh Bedi declared the first innings with India at 306/6. Not because India were in a winning position, but because the West Indies pace attack was so menacing that quite a few batsmen were injured and the skipper thought it better to "protect" the remaining players from injury. In the second innings, five Indian batsmen (Anshuman Gaekwad, Gundappa Viswanath, Brijesh Patel, Bedi, and Chandrasekhar) were absent hurt, and India conceded the match with the score at 96.
Steely determination and the ability to adapt to alien conditions has always been a prerequisite to succeed in international cricket. Moreover, one or two individuals, no matter how talented, are never enough to achieve victory and it is absolutely imperative that all members of the team perform as a cohesive unit for a team to consistently do well.
The ability to instill such determination and self-belief, not just in oneself but in over two dozen other individuals to achieve a winning result is therefore the task of an international cricket captain.
The role of a captain in the game of cricket is perhaps far more significant than in most other sports. Not every cricketer, no matter how great, can be successful as a captain. History has borne witness to this fact and taking on the mantle of such a role requires inherent skills that not many possess. The ability to handle immense pressure and to not allow the same to affect either one's own performance or the team's is not a task easily handled.
The challenges facing a cricket captain in a cricket-crazy country like India are far more enormous where adulation in times of success can suddenly transform into abuse in times of failure. It is therefore worthwhile to acknowledge and appreciate a few exceptional gentleman who have excelled in this role over the years.