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A fine topic for the pub debate. Who would you say is the greatest international mens cricket captain? The Cricketer magazine ran a competition in 2018 asking their readers to select the greatest international mens captain – chosen from their writers selection of each country. So the Cricketer’s writers chose the following: England: Mike Brearley. Australia: Mark Taylor. Pakistan: Imran Khan. India: Nawab of Pataudi. West Indies: Clive Lloyd. Sri Lanka: Arjuna Ranatunga. South Africa: Graeme Smith. New Zealand: Brendon McCullum. The big question on top of all that, was who was the greatest of them all?
Before we share the answer, it’s worth thinking a little more about what makes a great captain and some of the rationale for the above worthy nominees can be very insightful. Of course, the captain in cricket is a fairly unique position in sport. If you think about football, rugby, AFL or indeed most other team sports, the captain’s role is nothing like the strategic and tactical demand that a cricket captain faces. Certainly many captains have to deal with managing personalities and getting the best out of their team, but none are quite so much in the spotlight as a cricket captain. The bowler bowls a wide delivery, the batsman leans on the shot and smokes a glorious extra cover drive to the boundary. The camera immediately goes to the captain to see his or her reaction and we are asked to wonder what fielding or bowling change will occur next. Talk about pressure.
What is the ideal make up of such an individual? Mike Brearley had what Rodney Hogg famously described as "a degree in people". He had a genius touch in managing diverse personalities and getting the best out of them. Headingly 1981 versus Australia a great example. Imran Khan led from the front as his country’s best player and fearsome fast bowler. He dragged his team forward and inspired through action. Clive Lloyd was a strategic thinker and innovator. He created the fast bowling quartet that the Windies became so famous for and he was able to unite the disparate countries of the West Indies into a brilliant playing collective. Mark Taylor took the Australian team to a whole new level of stylish and winning cricket. Arjuna Ranatunga inspired his team to great things even though his country was in civil strife. Nawab of Pataudi brought a sense of national pride and unity to the dressing room. Graeme Smith rebuilt South African’s faith and confidence in cricket after the disaster of Hanse Cronje’s betrayal and finally, Brendon McCullum introduced a new brand of thrilling counter attack coupled with a spirit of playing the game that has won admirers inside and outside of the sport.
These leadership characteristics range from deep people insight, innovation, risk taking, strategic nous, strength of character and to the sheer will to win and perform. Quite a high standard of requirements – no wonder the captain in cricket is such a high profile and important role. This is true for the club captain as well as the international captain. They all are under the spotlight and the best ones shine through.
So who came though as The Cricketer magazine’s ultimate choice?
Your turn to debate.
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Cricket. Where can we start? It’s fun, unique, thrilling, exciting and moving. As a global game, it connects and settles us in a world where things can feel difficult and scary. Cricket has the ability to link people, no matter about race, country, gender or occupation; it defies all differences, and enables us to all share a common passion.