When I first started watching cricket, at a very young age, most captains remained as captains till retirement, sharing credit for victories and bearing responsibility for defeats. The first time I saw a captain being sacked was in fact, as late as the Sourav Ganguly incident. But since then, captains resigning after a failure have become very common.
Since the Ganguly incident, I’m able to recall nine incidents, of captains resigning, namely, Rahul Dravid, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Andrew Strauss (from ODIs), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kevin Pietersen, Shoaib Malik, Graeme Smith and of all players, even Ricky Ponting followed the footsteps of the aforementioned by resigning from captaincy after the quarter-final exit in the 2011 world cup(I’m pretty sure that the list would be much longer if I include sacking as well, such as the case of Shakib Al Hasan). Most of these players, in fact, even retained their spot after they resigned from captaincy. Besides, I believe, both Pietersen and Dilshan’s trial at captaincy ended before it could even start.
I feel the whole point of resigning from captaincy and retaining the spot in the team is of hardly any use because that it’d hardly cause any significant difference in the team. I would be aghast, if someone tells me that Ricky Ponting, Kumar Sangakkara, Graeme Smith, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kevin Pietersen, right now have absolutely no influence on their respective team and they’re just like any other normal players of the team. No young Australian is likely to refuse an order from Ponting on-field. Besides, the whole point of captaincy redundant when the captain is the first person to leave the responsibility and escape from a capsizing boat. I believe, a captain is the person, who tries to finds a solution to come out of any crisis.
Sadly, that definition of mine doesn’t hold good anymore. However, it is not the captains who are the only ones to be blamed for the current situation. It is equally shared by the fans, cricket boards, the media, and off late, even the internet, with the advent of social media. These externals have astronomical expectations. What they fail to understand is, it is not practically possible for all the fourteen sides to win the world cup. The worst part is that these external forces are highly volatile, heaping praise on the captain when there is success and deepening the misery in case of a failure – the classic example of this being the recent Dhoni case – who was praised beyond superlatives after the world cup victory and was then criticised for nearly every mistake committed by the Indian team during the tours of England and Australia.
To ensure success in the long run, there must be some kind of stability but right now, the job of a coach seems to be far more stable than that of a captain. It is inevitable that a captain’s tenure would always be a mixture of success and failure, only the ratio would differ. I believe South Africa have now become a strong unit also because of Graeme Smith’s long tenure, with the team being built around his guidance for the past eight years.
I hope people realise the sport is a team game and it is not possible for any success or failure owing to the efforts of one person. Besides, this is just a sport and I believe a captain doesn’t have to come under so much pressure from the external forces, particularly the press. I can only hope that this situation soon changes.