What does a captain actually do in a cricket match?

There is a lot of criticism when a team loses a match and most of it is directed at the captain.  This is an attempt to actually look what are the specific actions that a captain takes before and during a match and how much are these criticisms actually valid!!

The match actually starts much before the first ball is bowled and even before the toss is claimed.  It starts with the composition of the team for the match and the captain is a party to this decision. No wonder that the rotation policy of Dhoni has been widely debated!! But rather than look at whom to play, the Captain has to decide the outcome he is playing for.  Is he playing to win the match or not to lose it!! Although both appear to be similar, there is an ocean of a difference between them. While the former calls for taking risks, the latter is all about avoiding risks. Sometimes the situation would call for the attitude. For example, if the team can enter the finals even if they lose provided the margin of loss is not huge, then the captain will play a very defensive game ab-initio and that will get reflected in the choice of his team.

Then comes the toss. There are only 2 possibilities ie to bat first or bowl first and the captain has very little choice in this matter.  The decision would be debated in the dressing rooms before the captain comes out for the toss and it will be based on many factors like the quality of the pitch, the desired outcome, the light conditions etc.  So if he calls it right, the choice is clear and if he doesn’t he has no choice but to take what is offered.  And winning the toss is a game of chance.

If the team is choosing to bowl or forced to bowl, then the captain has to have a plan of the choice of bowlers and setting the field for them.  Again, the outcome envisaged will shape this plan.  While the bowler has a lot of say in the field placements, the captain has to plot the strategy with the bowler.   However, a captain must be ready to trash the carefully crafted plan if the situation so demands.   This is a real test of the captain’s nerves when he finds the batsmen creating havoc especially in the final overs where an extra run or two can turn crucial!!

Keeping the batsmen enrolled in the strategy is the captain’s job for otherwise they may be playing their own games leaving the outcome in peril.  The sequence of the batsmen is also subject to last minute changes depending upon the demands of the match and this again is a real test of the captain’s mettle.  While he cannot do much about the batting of the other players, he can certainly lead from the front if need be and demonstrate leadership!!  Remember the scintillating performance of Kapil Dev in 1983 against Zimbabwe when half the team was back in the dressing room? Unfortunately that match was lost to posterity!!

So what’s the verdict?

Does the Captain deserve the bouquets and the brickbats?



  1. N Ramesh said,

    February 28, 2012 at 10:47 am

    It is all in the Game Buddy ! It is all a Game of both Choice and Chance, and that depends largely on how one looks at it ! More particularly from which constituency he is operating and how one is disposed to a particular situation. And so, until then this subject matter can be kept debating forever ! And as you know, ours is a debating society and we like to keep debating and that is how our entry country is made of. And that is what was even quipped loudly by the Indian born Nobel Prize Winner, Amartya Sen especially through his seemingly well acclaimed book under the name and style, ‘the Argumentative Indian’, which speaks volumes of how we are composed of, mate !

    • badrirag said,

      February 28, 2012 at 12:28 pm

      I cannot argue with whatever you have written because to do so I need to partially understand!!!

  2. April 9, 2012 at 6:13 am

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