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The titans of the Indian Premier League 2012

Vinay Anand April 22, 2012

In T20 cricket, usually a team which plays like individuals never wins. It is all the eleven players which have to contribute with the bat, ball and on the field, because all their efforts go on to make a huge difference. To ensure this is done, is the main role of the captain of the team. After all, he is held responsible for the team’s successes or failures. A side having a good skipper is likely to win more since ultimately he is their inspiration to perform. The team maybe fortunate to get away with poor captaincy due to the unpredictability of the shortest format of the game, but this is rare because more often than not, it is leadership which defines the strength of a particular team. Here are the captains of all the 9 franchises of the Indian Premier League in 2012 –

1) MS Dhoni (Chennai Super Kings)

MS Dhoni

MS Dhoni

When this man from Ranchi first burst onto the international scene, he was recognized more for his funky hairstyle and love for bikes in particular instead of his cricket. He was a youth icon at a point of time, being perhaps the most dashing Indian wicketkeeper batsman of all time after Syed Kirmani. However, as he was handed over the leadership reigns of the Indian cricket team and got married to his long-time girlfriend, he has matured to be the senior statesman of whichever team he plays for now.

Dhoni is rated by many as the best Indian captain of all time, even if in the last eight months India has had disastrous tours of England and Australia. To win two World Cups for the country as captain is no mean achievement (World T20 in 2007 in South Africa and the ICC World Cup 2011 at home). It goes to show that this man is extremely capable of inspiring his team to perform under pressure. This is such a crucial quality to have as a leader, especially in T20 cricket.

His analytical mind alongside his calmness irrespective of the situation of the game makes him indeed the ‘Captain Cool’ of Indian cricket. To be detached from the outcome of every game and focusing on the present is indeed a quality which not many modern day cricket captains possess. This may be considered to be a dull attribute he possesses according to a common man due to the philosophical element, but let me tell you that it is an amazing one to have and this is what makes Dhoni unique from his other counterparts in international cricket or the IPL. His very personality makes his team mates want to be like him and play with an uncluttered mind, which is always going to the key for his team’s success.

Dhoni has been leading the Chennai Super Kings for five years in a row now, which is easily a record in the IPL since Shane Warne is no longer a part of the competition and Sachin Tendulkar recently quit as Mumbai Indians’ skipper. This is an outstanding record to possess, due to T20 cricket always been that format where a team is never sure at which stage it may lose a match. And under him, Chennai had made it to the final of the 2008 season of the IPL and won the championship in 2010 and 2011. It is the only team to have made the last four in all the seasons played so far. Besides, Dhoni is the only captain in T20 cricket to have won the IPL and the Champions League in the same year, i.e. 2010.

A man who is a master of on-the-spot thinking, Dhoni continues to be the central figure of Chennai’s phenomenal run in the competition even as players like Suresh Raina and Ravichandran Ashwin have been consistent performers for the side. He has hardly missed a match for this team and when he did once, Chennai did not look the same, dominant outfit if I remember well. I would not be surprised if the Super Kings complete a hat-trick of IPL victories this year under the ‘Czar of Indian cricket’.

2) Daniel Vettori (Royal Challengers Bangalore)

Daniel Vettori

Daniel Vettori

The legendary New Zealand spinner was the captain of his national side from 2008 to 2011, and under him somehow the team managed to be a competitive force in the shorter formats of the game at least. Yet, surprisingly nobody in the cricketing world, fans and pundits alike would have thought that Vettori would be the leader of an IPL side. This is because he is such a gritty and skilful operator with the ball that he should be focusing on that rather than being pressurized with the burden of captaincy. However, all those people were proven wrong when he was appointed to lead the Vijay Mallya-owned Royal Challengers Bangalore team from the 2011 season of the Indian Premier League.

He was earlier an integral part of the Delhi Daredevils outfit, thriving in the first three seasons with that team. It was primarily due to his major contributions that they made it to the last four in the first two seasons and fifth in the third season. Therefore, it was a bit of a shock when the Daredevils decided to bring his name up for auction and not bid for him again. In fact, no team as such showed great interest in buying him perhaps due to his age and as a result, the Royal Challengers Bangalore snapped him for a meager $USD 550,000. It has so far turned to be a masterstroke by Mallya, the shrewd businessman that the world perceives him to be.

According to him, Vettori was appointed as captain because of the respect he possesses in the cricketing globe even if he is from New Zealand, a country which has not achieved great heights in the game. He is the personification of the combination of simplicity and skill, which is admired by many. And with the fact that Bangalore, like other franchises will have players from all over the world participating, Vettori is like an intermediary to all of them in terms of communication.

In the first three years, Bangalore had three different captains. Rahul Dravid failed for them in the inaugural season perhaps due to poor strategic planning, and the team finished seventh that year out of eight teams. Kevin Pietersen led them for the first half in the following season in South Africa, but the team struggled by the time he left for international commitments. Pietersen’s batting and leadership is inversely proportional and this is something which Mallya and co. did not realize back then. Then, came Anil Kumble and the team began to perform way better than before as they eventually made it to the final in South Africa and finished third in 2010.

Bangalore needed continuity when it comes to the leadership reigns of the team and although Kumble was doing a fine job, he decided to quit the IPL and become the mentor of the team instead. They needed someone like Kumble, who is humble, has integrity and has the capacity to guide the team rather than dictate them how to play. And in the new Bangalore team, there is no better man than Vettori who has all those qualifications for the top job.

He had a brilliant start to his captaincy tenure, as Royal Challengers Bangalore made it to the finals of the IPL 2011. Although Chris Gayle almost singlehandedly led their march to the top of the points table, Vettori’s lateral thinking as captain and consistent bowling performances cannot be counted out. Without ‘Dan the Man’, Bangalore’s bowling looks thin and leadership wise, they might look lost as men like Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers might not yet be trusted to lead the team at the moment.

3) Harbhajan Singh (Mumbai Indians)

Harbhajan Singh

Harbhajan Singh

The ‘Turbanator’ took over the captaincy of the Mumbai franchise, when Sachin Tendulkar decided to inexplicably resign from the post just three days prior to their first match of this year’s competition against the Chennai Super Kings. It may be too early to judge Harbhajan Singh as a captain, considering that Mumbai Indians have only played three games in the IPL so far. Yet, he could be a promising prospect leading the side owned by Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest corporate honcho.

Harbhajan has been more or less a player throughout his career, having played under different captains. For example, he began his career when Mohammad Azharuddin was the captain of India. He then grew leaps and bounds under Sourav Ganguly’s stewardship and went on to become one of the finest spin bowlers India has ever seen and one of the bets in the world at a point of time in Tests and ODIs. He also had the experience of playing under Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble in what was a turbulent period of his career, and lastly MS Dhoni made him feel like a spinner of value mainly due to the fact that Kumble had retired in 2008 and he had to take the mantle of being India’s lead spinner. Not to mention, Bhajji also learnt a lot from his predecessor Tendulkar in the IPL for the first four years.

This is why Harbhajan Singh does not seem to possess an original style of leadership and instead has taken ideas from others as to how to do it well. He has the typical aggression of a Punjabi of course, being fiery with the ball and on the field too. That aggression could light up a young Mumbai Indians side, which requires inspiration from time to time. And more so, when Sachin Tendulkar is not playing for them.

Harbhajan’s major weakness is his temperament, as he is self-confessedly an extremely emotional person on and off the field. It could hurt the team at times, as his decisions might not turn out to be correct. And when that happens, it could create a certain amount of discord and rift within the team. Yet, he somehow covers up for it with his skill and competitiveness and that is something to be admired about him. He never gives up and that is the ultimate quality to have as captain to win more T20 matches, since the situation of the game fluctuates from time to time.

He has been out of the Indian team since August 2011 and being the captain of his side, might also improve his bowling which can help him get back playing for India, which needs an efficient spinner badly. Let us not forget that it was due to Bhajji’s inspirational captaincy that Mumbai won the Champions League T20 last year, despite being one of the underdog teams coming into the competition following injuries to several star players. It would not be astonishing to see Harbhajan complete Mumbai Indians’ dream of winning the IPL this year, having missed out narrowly in the last two seasons.

4) Gautam Gambhir (Kolkata Knight Riders)

Gautam Gambhir

Gautam Gambhir

Being the captain of a franchise owned by the biggest Bollywood superstar of the contemporary era is never easy. Ask Sourav Ganguly about it! Gambhir succeeded Ganguly for the top job last year, after he was snapped by Shahrukh Khan and co. for $USD 2.4 million, making him the most expensive player in the history of the Indian Premier League officially. This decision was sort of a no-brainer for the Knight Riders team management since they wanted a top Indian player to lead the side and anyway there was no better option than Gambhir out of all the other players as well.

The Indian southpaw was one of the key members of the Delhi Daredevils team, for the first three years of the Indian Premier League. He formed one of the most destructive opening partnerships with one of his best friends and fellow Delhi player, Virender Sehwag in the history of the competition. The fear that Gambhir creates within bowlers due to his adaptable style of batting made the Daredevils the team to beat in the past. And thus, it is no surprise that they made it to the last four in the first two seasons. He led that team in the third season, but they narrowly missed out on the semifinal spot, finishing fifth in the competition.

His previous leadership experience has helped him during his time with the Kolkata Knight Riders so far. It was under him that the team qualified into the last four of the IPL for the first ever, in the 2011 season following 8 wins in the 14 matches played. Gambhir has the belief that he is a player first for his team, and then its captain because the captain is as good as his team. This explains the reason why he continued to be an impact player last year too and still is one of the Knight Riders’ premier batsmen, even if the side has stars such as Jacques Kallis, Yusuf Pathan and Manoj Tiwary who can do a good amount of damage with the bat in T20 cricket.

However, I do not agree with the fact that Gambhir can be considered a ‘good’ captain even if he instigated Kolkata’s turnaround. He is fortunate to inherit a side with big names in it and since the players were in great form last year, they performed extremely well. He did captain India in a few ODIs in 2010 and was named the team’s vice-captain for a period of time, but soon was stripped off that post too which was correct. Physically, he is not the fittest since he gets injured from time to time which can hurt the team’s morale. Mentally, he can lose his cool quickly which is a negative because players like to see a captain who is steady in his approach and not over aggressive or over defensive.

In terms of being a strategist too, Gambhir is not really impressive and that might make Kolkata struggle at times, especially in crunch games as seen last year. He needs to take advice from seniors such as Kallis and Lee while setting the field appropriately, to mask that problem. But there is no doubt that his integrity is of the highest order towards his game and players, which is why he is the best candidate currently for being the Knight Riders captain and leading them to the title this year.

5) Adam Gilchrist (Kings XI Punjab)

Adam Gilchrist

Adam Gilchrist

Adam Gilchrist is perhaps the best captain Australia never had, alongside the likes of his legendary teammate Shane Warne. Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting were so successful during his playing days that Gilly was more often than not, appointed as the vice-captain of the national team. But when he was captain, he had this terrific ability of getting the best out of his players and planning according to the situation of the game. This is why Australia won a Test series in India for the first time in 35 years, under his stewardship and not Ponting’s or Waugh’s.

This attribute of his fulfilled his dream of leading a team on a regular basis when he was snapped by Deccan Chargers for the first three years of the Indian Premier League and named the team’s captain after the first seven matches of the inaugural season. The team flunked miserably in 2008, but Gilly was not let down by it. Even if he is an emotional man, he rarely shows it on the cricket field and this is what makes him so special, especially as a leader who needs to use his head more than his heart to make the right decisions.

Deccan Chargers transformed from the Davids to the Goliaths of the IPL in only 12 months, winning the IPL 2009 in South Africa when nobody would have ever put their money on them. This is what is called a ‘turnaround’ as Gilly used his experience in South African conditions to the fullest and helped his team adapt to it quickly. That tournament is still one of the success stories of the Indian Premier League amongst corporate and Gilchrist’s leadership skills was amongst its highlights. Unforgettably, he smashed a quick fire fifty in the semifinal against the favourites Delhi Daredevils despite being out of form and that motivated the team to cause yet another upset and play neighbours, Royal Challengers Bangalore in the final.

It was astonishing to know that Deccan Chargers did not bother to bid for Gilchrist again, in 2011. The team finished fourth in 2010, which was again incredible because the team was written off in Indian conditions and had won just 3 of the first 8 matches that they had played. However, fortunately it was Kings XI Punjab who recognized his value and bought him for $USD 900,000 in the 2011 auction. Preity Zinta, the Bollywood actress who also happens to be one of the co-owners of the Punjab outfit mentioned that Gilly was purchased primarily because of the leadership package that he is.

To play any form of cricket at the age of 40 is no mean achievement, let alone leading any team. Gilly is one of those rare players who still does not mind being on his hunches for 120 balls in an innings and opening the batting for his team. He may not be the same destructive force that he was in the past, but his very presence in the dressing room is a source of inspiration for all the players, including the Indian youngsters. From the previous Deccan Chargers side, players such as Rohit Sharma, Pragyan Ojha and RP Singh have matured tremendously and in the current Punjab side, the likes of David Hussey, Paul Valthaty and Piyush Chawla seem to continue learning a lot from Gilly’s attitude and improving the game consequently.

This fiery, yet soft-spoken Aussie remains one of the most honest players to grace the cricket field and he is the reason why some people still watch the game. He is a joy to watch when it comes to wicket keeping, batting and leading a side till date. It was due to him mainly that Kings XI Punjab finished fifth in last year’s IPL, narrowly missing out on the semifinals to the Kolkata Knight Riders. Adam Gilchrist has a huge task in his hands to ensure that this team performs much better this season.

6) Rahul Dravid (Rajasthan Royals)

Rahul Dravid

Rahul Dravid

Dravid may have recently retired from all forms of cricket, but not the Indian Premier League as yet. Rajasthan Royals’ team management seems to understand his importance to the team and this is why he was chosen to succeed Shane Warne as the leader of this side, following his retirement from the IPL last season. Although Dravid is by no means a player to watch out for in T20 cricket to the average cricket buff, yet the Royals need him because the opposition can at times underestimate ‘The Wall’ and that could perhaps bring the best cricket out of him.

He was named the captain and icon player for the Royal Challengers Bangalore franchise in the first season of the Indian Premier League, but did not meet with much success. Dravid’s decisions were tactically wrong and that made Vijay Mallya furious with him, because the team back then looked like a Test match side playing a T20 game. Bangalore was the only team that year to have tried out as many as 11 different opening combinations in the 14 matches played. Thus, it was understandable as to why they finished seventh out of the eight teams.

As a result, Dravid was sacked as captain the next season itself and replaced by Kevin Pietersen. He fared decently in the following two seasons and so did the team, but that was not good enough a reason for Mallya to retain him in the side from the beginning of the fourth season of the tournament. Rajasthan Royals took this golden opportunity and picked Dravid for $USD 500,000. He was one of the top run getter of the Royals in 2011, but unfortunately the team finished sixth out of ten teams.

Now that he is captain, he has the authority to make all the decisions for a team which is filled with more youngsters rather than oldies from India as well as the rest of the world. Rajasthan has redefined T20 cricket with their style of playing, as they believe that superstar names do not have as much value in this format since it is performers on the day who win matches for the team. But they did keep oldies such as Shane Warne and Rahul Dravid, just to guide the youngsters who do not have the experience of playing opposite players of international class.

Dravid promises to ensure that this ‘brand’ of cricket is continued to be played by Rajasthan Royals, which historically made them the first ever champions of the IPL, back in 2008. His role has to be a mix of being a mentor as well as a leader of men, since the players need guidance from time to time and also that captain who can fire them up to perform in every single game possible. And he is by far capable of doing that, because he has a pure blend of aggression and sportsmanship when on the cricket field.

In this Rajasthan Royals team, there does not seem to be a better option than Dravid to lead the side since he can communicate well to the Indian players and is also fluent in English, which makes him get along well with the foreign players as well. In terms of batting, the biggest advantage for the Royals is that in T20s, he can bat at any position for the team and that makes the batting order flexible. This can create occasional surprises for even the toughest of oppositions. May Rahul Dravid flourish in what could be his last tournament of his cricketing career!

7) Kumar Sangakkara (Deccan Chargers)

Kumar Sangakkara

Kumar Sangakkara

Deccan Chargers had one international wicketkeeper batsman as the captain of their team for the first three seasons, and decided to replace him with another from the 2011 season. The replacement turned out to be none other than arguably Sri Lanka’s finest wicketkeeper batsman of all time, Kumar Sangakkara. He may have been bought for $USD 700,000 by the Hyderabad franchise, but they probably got a good deal since Sanga brings to the table many benefits when it comes to playing in T20 cricket.

Firstly, he is 34 which means that he still has a few years of international cricket left in him. Secondly, he has always been a sought after leader for Sri Lanka in the shorter versions of the game, finding extreme success with the national side. It was under him that the Lankans made it to the World T20 final in 2009 in England, eventually losing to Pakistan and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 final in the Indian subcontinent, eventually losing to India. They became a much fancied opposition due to Sangakkara’s controlled aggression when it comes to both batting and captaincy.

Sanga seems to be that sort of a leader, who can think on his feet very quickly and that is a must for a team to do well in T20 cricket. The legend that he is, international players especially would want to relish the experience of playing alongside him and for this Deccan Chargers side, it is an ominous sign because the team relies a lot on their foreign players to deliver such as Cameron White, JP Duminy, Daniel Christian and Dale Steyn.

In the first three years of the Indian Premier League, Sangakkara was a part of the Kings XI Punjab team and played an important role in guiding them to the semifinals of the first season, with the bat as well as the keeping gloves. Since the team finished fifth in the following season in South Africa, Yuvraj Singh was relieved of captaincy duties and those were handed over to Sanga following Sri Lanka’s success in the 2009 World T20. But worse results followed as the team failed to play as a cohesive unit and Yuvraj was not in the best of forms, as he looked mentally and physically drained. Punjab finished at the bottom of the points table in the IPL 2010 and that might have prompted the owners to put the entire set of players up for auction in the year 2011.

Sangakkara was appointed the captain of the Deccan Chargers in 2011 in the hope that he could repeat Adam Gilchrist’s feat with the team of winning the championship once again. However, the team played well in patches and altogether struggled which probably shows why leadership does not come naturally to the Sri Lankan. Agreed that wicket keeping, batting and captaincy can create huge pressure on most players (even Gilly and Dhoni may have felt it) but he could do a much better job when it comes to inspiring his players to give it their best on the field.

The team finished seventh last year but it would need to pull up their socks in order to retain their diminishing fan base. For that, Sangakkara’s all-round performances will hold the key.

8) Sourav Ganguly (Pune Warriors India)

Sourav Ganguly

Sourav Ganguly

Does this man need to be really described when it comes to leadership? Perhaps one of the greatest captains of all time and definitely so in Indian cricket, it comes as no surprise that Pune Warriors India decided to appoint him as captain for this year’s tournament following Yuvraj Singh’s tough battle with cancer. In this Pune team, none of the players have the caliber to be the perfect link between the coaching staff and the team and Ganguly definitely would be having the maximum experience of leading a team before.

Dada is one of the finest examples for leadership in any field, let alone cricket. Like a true Bengali, he is extremely passionate about his game and the love which generates out of that passion makes him perform to the fullest whenever he is on the cricket ground. As captain, batsman, bowler or a fielder, Ganguly does not fall short of giving it his best which is why he is such an admirable figure in our country. And then of course he always thinks on the front foot while strategizing, i.e. being aggressive all the time. From his body language, one can make out that he believes in the fact that his team cannot relax in any situation against any opposition.

He is also renowned for making tough decisions, even if it is against the whims and fancies of the team administration, only for the better of the team. This is why he changed the entire outlook of the Indian team in the early 2000s, converting them from the whipping boys to the bulwarks of world cricket. Ganguly will always back his players even if he may criticize them at times, and he will back those especially who he feels have the talent and attitude both to succeed in his team. His intuitive as well as analytical skills are equally brilliant and this is what makes him a wonderful captain and by far the best I have ever seen on a cricket field.

He was the captain of his home franchise, Kolkata Knight Riders in the first and the third seasons of the Indian Premier League. In both the competitions, the team unfortunately finished sixth though they could have made it to the semifinals easily. Ganguly likes it when he is permitted to run the team in the way he wishes to, since the captain eventually runs the ship according to him. Perhaps, Shahrukh Khan, Dav Whatmore and John Buchanan may not have favoured his style of leadership and that might have been the root of disputes between the players and the team management, since the players would naturally back Dada. Due to those average performances, Kolkata infamously decided not to bid for Ganguly in the 2011 auction and as it turned out, no other team bid for him as his base price was too high, $USD 400,000.

However, his fortunes changed in a couple of weeks as the Sahara-owned franchise, Pune Warriors India decided to pick him as a replacement player for the injured pacer Ashish Nehra. He played in three matches last year and did not make a big impact in the competition. But due to his experience and fantastic knowledge about the game which has increased due to commentating on television these days, Subrata Roy and co. felt that Ganguly should be bought officially and handed over the responsibility of running the team in the absence of a head coach and a full-time captain.

It would not be surprising if Sourav Ganguly can inspire his team to winning the championship this year, following their disastrous outing the last time around. Who will the Kolkata crowd support, when his ex-team Kolkata Knight Riders take on Pune Warriors India at the Eden Gardens? Interesting times ahead for him and his team!

9) Virender Sehwag (Delhi Daredevils)

Virender Sehwag

Virender Sehwag

Sehwag has been the face of the Delhi Daredevils franchise in the history of the Indian Premier League, since he has been their most consistent performer and has hardly missed out playing for them. He was named captain of the team for the first two seasons, and the move worked wonders as this was one of the favourite sides to win the competition under his tenure. In the first season, they finished fourth and in the second, they finished third as they unluckily choked in the last four stage of the tournament.

Delhi qualified for the first ever Champions League under him, but did not do well primarily because Sehwag inexplicably quit leading the team, with his reason being that he wanted to focus on his batting. However, in that tournament and the IPL which followed, the Daredevils failed under Gambhir. That must have prompted the team management to build a new team altogether but surprisingly retained Viru and not Gambhir. Almost immediately after looking at the squad they built, Viru was once again named captain of the team since he is the man who is likely to lead the side better than any other Indian player in the side or a foreign player for that matter who had no experience whatsoever on leadership.

Delhi Daredevils played horribly last season, so much so that they finished at the bottom of the points table. The team was considered a ‘one-man army’ since Sehwag was the only threatening player in the side, in terms of T20 cricket. In fact, it was due to his batting contributions that Delhi won two of the four games last year, while they went on to lose nine out of fourteen. Viru may not be a natural leader, but he has a street smart cricketing brain and he would hope to use that to the fullest this year as the squad has also been strengthened. Besides, he could again use his batting to lead from the front and take advice from the likes of Mahela Jayawardene as to how to lead the side on the field.

The team has started off this season well with wins against heavyweights such as Kolkata Knight Riders in Kolkata and at home against the Chennai Super Kings, but they cannot afford to be hammered like they were in Bangalore in the hands of the Royal Challengers Bangalore as Viru made some strategic errors in terms of the team selection and the toss. He fancies bowling first, but he has to understand that it would not matter as much eventually because teams have also won batting first and in this IPL, that has been the trend so far. If he understands that and makes decisions on the conditions and the situations, he could become a much better captain than he is at the moment.

Comments (2)

  1. Their captaincy is tested in last 5 overs specially the 19th over which is proving to be the decisive for most of the teams in this IPL.

    Whoever survives the onslaught in 19th over becomes the titan. Just one over could change the course of the game. Just one mistake and they are done.

    Remember Daniel Vettori giving ball to Virat Kohli and Albie Morkel smashed him for 28 runs? They lost the match. This is classical example where even Titans go wrong. You never give 19th over to par-time bowler.

    Basically it all comes down to fielding side where their skills are tested.

    Rahul Dravid does a very good job in organizing team. He is everywhere and with the team. Dada is also at par with Dravid in being with the team.

    Dhoni, as usual, is a live example of “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster ;)

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  2. I believe that Vettori and Dravid are not good captains at all even if they are legends…. they need to be more sharp in their strategising, Vettori in particular with his bowling attack and Dravid with the batting order. Ganguly is an asset for a young team like Pune, even if he has not been contributing with the bat as much.

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