Leading the Indian cricket team is one of toughest jobs in the sport. And not surprisingly, the individual performances of most captains begin to suffer as they take on the tedious task. After a prolonged honeymoon period, the ‘curse’ of being India’s Test captain has taken its toll on M S Dhoni as well. He has been consistently struggling with the bat in the last season and a half. We analyse the performance of India’s last five permanent Test captains to point out the trend.
M S Dhoni: The current Indian captain’s overall Test record as a batsman remains decent. In 41 games that he has led India till date, he has scored 2310 runs at an average of 41.25 with four hundreds. However, for the earlier part of his captaincy stint, India played most of their games at home or in the sub-continent. To get a better idea of Dhoni’s struggles, we need to look at his figures in the last year and a half. In his last 17 matches, the wicket-keeper batsman has managed to score only 807 runs at a disappointing average of 31, and only one hundred to show. This has also been the period where India lost 4-0 in Australia and England. Owing to his recent failures, Dhoni’s average which was once above 40 has now fallen to 37.
Rahul Dravid: The great number three batsman led India in 25 Tests, and his figures when he wasn’t leading the side were significantly better than when he was in charge. In the matches that Dravid led India, he averaged 44.51 with four centuries totaling 1736 runs. Although these stats are impressive in itself, they pale in comparison to his overall numbers. In 139 Tests that Dravid played purely as a batsman, his average rose to 53.73. He amassed 11552 runs with 32 hundreds and a highest of 270. Dravid’s overall average of 52.31 was also well above that of his record as skipper.
Sourav Ganguly: It is no secret that the elegant left-hander’s batting suffered during his captaincy stint. In fact, he went through such a lean phase that he briefly ended up losing his place in the side. Ganguly led India in 49 Tests and averaged 37.66. He managed to score 2561 runs, but the period saw him crossing 100 only five times. In contrast, as player he featured in 64 Tests and scored 4651 runs at an impressive average of 45.15 with 11 hundreds and a highest of 239.
Sachin Tendulkar: The Indian legend admitted that he did not enjoy captaincy, and even refused a third stint that was to be handed over to him. His record as captain and player did not vary much, but he clearly was under too much pressure while batting with the additional responsibility of leadership. Tendulkar led India in 25 Tests, scoring 2054 runs at an average of 51.35 with seven hundreds. His record as non-captain was slightly better –167 Tests averaging 55.13 with 44 hundreds.
Mohammad Azharuddin: India’s most successful captain at one point of time, Azhar’s form also deserted him during later years as skipper. He was dropped and later recalled and even reinstated as skipper for a brief while. Overall, Azhar led India in 47 Tests during which he averaged 43.93 with nine hundreds. Like Sachin, his record as non-captain was also a shade better –52 Tests, averaging over 46 with 13 hundreds.
--By A Cricket Analyst