Thursday, April 13, 2006

THE CAPTAINCY DEBATE

Captaincy is ninety percent luck and ten percent skill”-Richie Benaud.

Richie Benaud is well respected as a commentator and as a good captain of his generation. The defeat of the Aussies in a one dayer after posting a record total and the decision of Rahul Dravid to bowl first in the Mumbai test after winning the toss, has reopened the captaincy debate.

Much is made of the man-management skills and the astuteness of the cricket captains of the present and the past. But as Benaud puts it, there is only a limited amount of skill involved, where the captain has to take the right decision at the right time.

What was Ponting doing when his bowlers were thrashed all over the park after he and his batsmen posted a total in excess of 400? Ponting allowed the game to be taken away from his hands and even as the South African batsmen threw their wickets away, they could win the game. Normally, Ponting is praised for his thinking and cricketing acumen, both of which were not visible on that day.

Conventional wisdom says that the side winning the toss has to bat first on the pitches of the subcontinent. Dravid went the other way and paid the price by losing the test to England. There were explanations galore after the defeat. But the wins in the one dayers have put the Indian captain on a higher plane for his captaincy skills.

If a matter as small as a toss can decide the outcome of the matches, then the captain should be asked to master the art of making the winning calls. With 'super' coaches like Greg Chappell calling the shots in matters relating to selection and the strategies, there is very little for the captain to do.

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