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A good cricket captain needs nerves of steel and more

June 2, 2008

The team with the best captain made it to the final…and won. Shane Warne’s captaincy skills have been much lauded and I too cannot help but wonder what it is exactly that Warne has that he managed to take a team with hardly any stars on to win the IPL. And my respect for M.S. Dhoni has also shot up. Despite his star batsmen leaving after the first few games he got his team to the final.
An obvious truth: to win you need good players + good teamwork + a great leader. Great players may be an asset but teams can do without them. In fact at times individual egos of some star cricketers can come in the way of good teamwork.

The qualities of a great captain
I found this article by M.R. Baig who says that “ the natural gift of leadership has to be complemented with a sound knowledge about cricket and the ability to read the wicket (which can make a crucial difference in the decision to bat or bowl first). He has given an explanation as to what qualities a good captain should have and I have listed them here in brief:

  1. Nerves of steel
  2. Good thinking ability, logical and systematic
  3. Good judge of people and able to gauge their moods. (necessary to get the best out of each player)
  4. Fearless…never afraid to attack
  5. Doing one’s homework on each player’s strengths and weaknesses so one can use the player to the best of his ability.
  6. And related to the above point, the ability to read people and their moods…this helps the captain to respond differently to each player. One player might be motivated by a strong reprimand, another might get de-motivated)
  7. Will to win
  8. Flexibility…to be able to change plans and respond differently to different situations.

Perhaps this is why the Mumbai Indians could not make it even to the semis. I do admire great sportsmen who hold world records but it isn’t necessary that they be great captains. Isn’t it rare to be the world’s best bowler, or the world’s best batsman and also the world’s best captain?

In India we have debated this issue often, about the pros and cons of making either Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar or Yuvraj or M.S Dhoni the captain. Anyone familiar with Indian cricket is aware of what the issues are…but even then the same mistakes are being made. Perhaps one needs a coach who nurtures not just batsmen and bowlers but also leaders.

And we also need franchisees who stop deciding team composition or team captains. And I am not just talking of the Mumbai Indians but other teams too. So who will choose the team captain? Coaches I think.

I’ll leave you with some images of yesterday’s match. Last evening we were on our way back from Pune. We passed the D.Y. Patil stadium. The excitement was visible even to passersby like us.

DY Patil stadium

There was a huge traffic jam on the other side. We were going towards Mumbai but the vehicles coming from Mumbai were at a slow crawl. Which means don’t ever try and take this route on a day when an IPL match is scheduled at the DY Patil stadium! And for those who are going to the match, well, I just hope everyone made it in time.

traffic jam

We got home faster than usual as the roads nearer our house were deserted. It was after seven and people were either at DY Patil stadium or they were at home watching the closing ceremony of the IPL on television. I was thinking…what are we doing here? Shouldn’t we have started from Pune earlier so we could catch the closing ceremony on TV?

deserted road bridge

By the time we were back home the closing ceremony had started and it had everything from an acrobatic show to bollywood dances and a laser show. Uh, I realised I hadn’t missed much although the acrobatic show was good.

closing ceremoney acrobatic

Then to the real story…the start of the match:

Dhoni and Shastri

And the winner is: Shane Warne.

Shane Warne Rajasthan Royals

(All pictures are by me and copyrighted and the last picture is from the site of the Pakistan Cricket Board)

Related Reading: IPL has caught the nation’s fancy

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. June 2, 2008 9:40 am

    😦 😐 🙂

    But yes, congratulations to Shane Warne and his men for a good performance.

    And my fellows, the Super Kings can take heart from the fact that they fought right upto the last ball of the last match despite going into the semi-finals with a depleted team. Cheer up, guys! We will lift the trophy next year!

    Three cheers to the IPL! 🙂

  2. June 2, 2008 10:07 am

    Nice post and beautiful photos! (Hope HT 😡 keep their hands off this post 🙂 )

    Well, I guess Shane Warne is the undisputed leader of the Rajasthan Royals as they entrusted him with the reponsibilities of both the captain and the coach, and he managed to pull it off! Well done, Warney!

    And captain cool, Dhoni, too did his job superbly. After Hayden, Hussey and Fleming went back to their countries, our batting line-up was quite weak. I did not expect the Super Kings to stretch it to the last ball of the finals. And I liked the way Dhoni refused to select a single turning point in the match but accepted responsibility as a team. Sign of a good leader.

    But now I am left wondering why Australia did not take advantage of Warney’s leadership skills. I guess everyone in the Australian team is a leader! This must be because, in Australia, the team is selected first, and only then a captain is chosen from the selected players. This ensures that a captain first makes it to the team on his cricket skills first and only then becomes the captain for his leadership skills! I wonder if the BCCI will ever learn from the Aussie system 😕

    And one of the best things about the IPL, in my opinion, is the fact that though everything was loaded against the poor bowlers, old warhorses like Warne and McGrath, current players like Muralitharan and others and emerging talent like Goni, Chawla and others did a terrific job. Hats off to those chaps!

  3. June 2, 2008 2:31 pm

    😦 ur feeding into the ipl frenzy
    im almost sick and tired of cricket

  4. June 2, 2008 2:57 pm

    Finally, its over.
    Good Bye to all the cheerleaders. 🙂

  5. June 2, 2008 4:07 pm

    hi, Nita!

    although I love LAGAAN I must confess I never understood cricket 🙂 seems very complicated to me..

    However the qualities you have listed here seem to be important for every capitain, not only of a cricket team. Actually any good leader!

  6. June 2, 2008 4:50 pm

    The stadium looks cool indeed! and ya sachin was never a good leader.. may be god of batting but not a good leader

  7. June 2, 2008 7:09 pm

    have u seen terminator?
    i am sure you won’t like to have him as an indian captain.
    PS: he is made of steel

  8. June 2, 2008 7:40 pm

    “…the ability to read people and their moods…this helps the captain to respond differently to each player. One player might be motivated by a strong reprimand, another might get de-motivated)”

    Probably this is where Shane warne and Dhoni scored over the other captains?

    Very interesting post.

  9. June 2, 2008 9:10 pm

    U are falling into this frenzy… We need to concentrate and discuss more bout the issue facing the nation, rather then watching this game when people still string for a meal in a day..

    Cricket, TV and Girl/BoyFriend Phenomenon are WMD’d for me 🙂

  10. June 2, 2008 9:34 pm

    Raj, thank you for your comment. Very interesting what you said about australians choosing their team first and captain later. here we seem to choose the captain and he decides the team or at least it seems that way.

    Prax, I was never a cricket fan as such but now I am. I am in fact feeling just the opposite as you…I am very very sad that the IPL is over! Now I can’t watch tv anymore except for news channels which have also started to get on my nerves. I cannot watch soaps for a minute and I like to see movies in theatres.

    Xylene, I know you don’t like cricket…but cheerleaders? 🙂

    Axinia, cricket is a little complicated, I too think and frankly I don’t understand it as well as I should! But I thoroughly enjoyed the IPL. And what you said is right, these are qualities of any leader, not just a cricket captain.

    Balu, agreed! Awesome cricketer is Sachin but not the best captain.

    Ankur, haha! that’s a good one.

    Usha, I think so. I think both Warne and Dhoni are people oreinted, more so Warne I think. Dhoni has more of the other qualities…I think he is more fearless, has stronger nerves and is an excellent thinker, clear and logical. I think Dhoni is the best captain India has and I think he is a better captain than warne. Actually Warne is more experienced and has been a product of the more professional australian cricketing culture so I think if dhoni had got that trainig, he would be even better!

    Vishal, I am not as serious as the blog seems to imply. I am a movie buff, read thrillers and like to enjoy. I am addicted to the IPL and am sad its over. And btw, arent you the same Vishal Sharma who sent me a whole load of pictures of the cricket match in sydney and I made a slide show of it? If you’ve forgotton you can view it again here. 🙂

  11. June 3, 2008 3:23 am


    // Here we seem to choose the captain and he decides the team or at least it seems that way. //

    Not exactly. Here(in the IPL) the players are auctioned off to the highest bidder like certain things that are usually auctioned! 😀

    Yeah, I knew that Raj, but IPL is only recent. The other teams must have had some sort of selection proceedure which I am not familiar with – Nita.

  12. June 3, 2008 9:51 am

    Hi All,

    I see lot of praise here about dhoni’s leadership skills. I believe he is very young in leading experience and it is really premature to talk about his captaincy’s outcome. At the moment, he is riding on lot of luck in his short span of cricketing leadership. Wait for two more years and comment. India had seen several successful captains, for a period of more than 4 years. Moreover, T20 game is not real cricket, it is a speculative game. It is any one’s game on a given day. Imagine 10 wickets for 20 overs, isnt it funny? Do a simple math, one batsman has to face atleast 12 odd balls and if he throws his bat at anything, he might end up scoring 30 odd runs. If five batsmen clicks on a day it is 150 runs, a competitive score. There is not much captain can do to turn the match upside down. Any normal player can survive in T20 and shine. There wont be any complete failures or excellent success. On the contrary Test cricket is something a captain has to work a lot to keep the team focused for five full days, where I see dhoni is not even excelled as a player. I would be really surprised if he can make the cut in Test cricket as a player. But he will be lucky enough to get in as captain and he might have lot of time to recover. If he does that in coming two years, I will agree that he is a good captain.

  13. babu permalink
    June 3, 2008 12:50 pm

    I think both Warne and Dhoni are oriented towards team , So they were upto finals on sunday….. There is no doubt about the Dhoni as captain. He is having courage and spirit to face the challenge….. And he is having own logic to play against other teams……. Cheer up ! lets lift it next time…..

  14. June 3, 2008 1:46 pm


    Do you mean other captains in IPL do not oriented towards team or success? T20 is at the least 70% luck game. On a day, success will go either way. Luckily, Dhoni and Warne got young and thriving players, it is easy to inspire some one who has not achieved so much success in international arena. Other IPL teams had the most exposed players who obviously might not have had the liability to perform.

    Do not use T20 to judge a captain or even a player.

    The point is, even if the captain has spirit or fire or whatever you call, if the team members don’t have the same, it is not going to work out.

    Let us give a long rope(may be two years) to Dhoni to perform in Test cricket.

  15. vivek mittal permalink
    June 7, 2008 11:03 am

    It was sad to see Mumbai not making it to the semis……………the city has given so much to indian cricket.
    Also it was the first time i didn’t clap on a sachin tandulkar four…….becoz in the crucial match between Delhi and Mumbai…i wanted Delhi to win and reach semis…..but with my natural instinct i felt sad seeing sachin getting out ……though ideally i wanted to see these two teams in the finals…but sadly there happen very few ideal things in this world

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