Hello, Goodbye! The jinxed tenures of India's captains

Pulasta Dhar, Dec, 13 2012

There are some jobs in the world of sport that are, in simple terms, jinxed; jinxed to end in humiliation, in injury, in retirement or a sacking.

You can do as well as anybody in these jobs — win World Cups (Mahendra Singh Dhoni) and Champions League trophies (eg. Di Matteo) — but it's never enough.

And one of these is the job of being India's cricket captain.

We look back at 10 significant captains in India's Test history and see how they lost their jobs.

MAK Pataudi (1961- 1970, 1974): The man best remembered for leading India to their first series win overseas. His exit from the side was supposedly a brilliant political ploy. As legend goes, Vijay Merchant, then Chairman of the Board of Selectors led a no-confidence motion against Tiger to replace him with Ajit Wadekar (who incidentally had requested Tiger to pick him in the side). Once Merchant's tenure was up, he made a comeback but couldn't do enough with the bat. Also, there was constant debate on his eyesight. He preferred to retire rather than keep up the struggle.

Record as captain: 9 wins/19 losses/12 draws

Ajit Wadekar (1970-1974): Winning overseas was one thing, and winning in the West Indies was another, and Wadekar goes down as the man who led India to their first series wins in the Windies and in England. At the peak of his captaincy, he led India to three series wins on the trot. But when the team visited England in 1974, they were absolutely thrashed. In today's day and age, that may not be enough to sack MS Dhoni, but it was enough to force Wadekar to retire from the game.

Record as captain: 4 wins/4 losses/8 draws

Sunil Gavaskar (1975-1985): Gavaskar held many records in world cricket. Most of them enviable... apart from one — under primarily his leadership, India went 31 Test matches without a win. It also meant that the Board would constantly experiment with the captaincy, often turning to others in dire situations. The results, along with his flirtation with World Series Cricket led to a lack of stability for Indian cricket in terms of a permanent skipper.

Pataudi-- the man best remembered for leading India to their first series win overseas. Getty Images

The treatment Gavaskar was meted at Eden Gardens -- where he was booed for his defensive captaincy -- was another talking point. The team bus was stoned after a loss to West Indies and fruits were thrown at Gavaskar in a later match. All this, plus a bad run for Indian cricket, resulted in Gavaskar resigning from the post.

Record as captain: 9 wins/8 losses/30 draws

Bishan Singh Bedi (1975-1979): Outspoken and radical — that was Bedi. Maybe he didn't win many games, but he was one who completely utilised the powers of being skipper (not always in a good way). The Vaseline incident with John Lever, the accusations of West Indies intimidating Indians with fast bowlers and his tussle with Erapalli Prasanna are some of the most famous. After consecutive series losses against England, Pakistan and Australia between 1976/77- 1979, he was sacked as skipper.

Record as captain: 6 wins/11 losses/5 draws

Kapil Dev (1982-1987): The image of Kapil lifting the 1983 World Cup is a permanent fixture in every Indian cricket fan's memory. However, in the Test side, captaincy was constantly being rotated. Kapil lost his captaincy in 1984 after poor batting performances and was back as leader after a year. He was one of the players whose personal performances while he was captain were better than when he was not. But there were too many big names in the team and differences of opinion with Gavaskar meant one always had to take a back seat.

Record as captain: 4 wins/7 losses/23 draws

Mohammad Azharuddin (1989-1999): Before Sourav Ganguly, it was Azhar who held the record for most Test wins as captain of India. There was a brief stint where Sachin Tendulkar took over due to Azhar hitting bad form, but  he was re-instated in a year. He did pretty okay in his second stint as Indian Test captain too, but the match-fixing scandal brought an end to his career. There couldn't be a more disgraceful fall for a man who had played 99 Tests and even though he was cleared of charges recently, the black mark remains. As does the moniker of 'Home Tigers' -- under Azhar, India won just one match away from home and that victory came in Sri Lanka.

Record as captain: 14 wins/14 losses/19 draws

Sachin Tendulkar (1996-2000): Tendulkar's rein as captain is best forgotten. In his first stint, he took charge with a lot of fanfare, being the nation's favourite player that he is. His personal record is pretty good as skipper — scoring 2054 runs in 25 Tests at an average of 51.35.  But, as a leader, you need results too — which were not coming. Sachin had had enough after losing a home series to South Africa and resigned, paving the way for Ganguly to take over. He didn't have luck either, as Azhar said: "Ye nahi jeetega. Chote ki kismat mein jeet nahi hai."

Record as captain: 4 wins/9 losses/12 draws

Sourav Ganguly (2000-2006): India's most successful Test captain has had his ups and downs too. While scoring at an impressive rate more or less, a bad patch of form led to him being dropped in late 2005. More than form however, it was his relationship with Greg Chappell which led to his downfall. A leaked email, a fan backlash and Ganguly speaking to the media made everything around the team negative. Chappell, himself a task master, openly wrote about Ganguly being 'unfit' to lead the team. Bad form gave way to being dropped before he made a fine comeback — but this time it was not as captain.

Record as captain: 21 wins/13 losses/15 draws

Rahul Dravid (2003-2007): The full details of Dravid stepping down as captain may never be known, but one can guess that it was the immense pressure from all quarters that led to him taking the decision. Dravid said that he wanted to concentrate on his batting, but those who have followed cricket know that he was feeling too stifled to lead the team. The gentleman that he is, he thought it better to step down than bat woefully because of mental pressure. Also, he was never quite allowed to take his own decisions or influence a team. With the BCCI's political in-fighting, Dravid's personality never quite matched. Even the selectors led by Dilip Vengsarkar were shocked by his decision.

Record as captain: 8 wins/6 losses/11 draws

Anil Kumble (2007-2008): Bad form and a bad injury is more than enough for an Indian cricketer to step down from his position of captain. Kumble injured his little finger during a series against Australia and his form was also waning. He decided that his body had had enough and it was time to step down. Considering how other captains made their exits, this one is quite an exception.

Record as captain: 3 wins/6 losses/6 draws

MS Dhoni: Will he resign or be sacked or fight back? By the end of the Nagpur Test, we might have the answer to that question.


Published Date: Dec 13, 2012 | Updated Date: Dec 13, 2012

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 4493 125
2 South Africa 3395 110
3 England 4097 105
4 Australia 3087 100
5 New Zealand 3114 97
Rank Team Points Rating
1 South Africa 5957 119
2 Australia 5505 117
3 India 4579 114
4 England 5645 113
5 New Zealand 5123 111
Rank Team Points Rating
1 New Zealand 1625 125
2 England 1962 123
3 Pakistan 2417 121
4 West Indies 2222 117
5 India 2183 115