Cricket is a team sport that needs significant contributions from every individual to win matches. However, it is also imperative that at times the entire task of winning matches falls on the shoulder of someone specific who needs to single-handedly drag the team. The occasion gets even more special if this lone warrior is the captain of the team.
It needs a lot of mental strength and a very strong character to hold the team together, be a voice for the entire unit and concurrently lead from the front with an electrifying performance to win matches. We will look at five instances where Indian captains took it upon themselves to usher India to victory.
1. Saurav Ganguly versus South Africa – 2nd Semi-final, ICC Knock Out, 2000:
It was an ideal batting condition at the Gymkhana Ground in Nairobi as India locked horns with South Africa for the second semi-final of ICC Knock Out.
The Indian skipper spearheaded the batting from the very front as he started clobbering the bowlers away in every corner of the park.
Primary victims of his relentless batting were Lance Kluesner, Roger Telemachus and Nicky Boje. His shots spanned from dancing down the pitch to exquisitely carved tracer bullets in the off.
After Tendulkar fell to Kallis, Ganguly and Dravid stitched a monumental partnership to steer India to the springboard for kill. Once Dravid was gone, it was Yuvraj who partnered with Saurav to take India to 293. However, the last over backfired in a staggering way, giving hopes to South Africa as India lost 4 wickets in the last 7 deliveries.
Ganguly remained unbeaten at the other end for a mammoth 141 off 142 deliveries that comprised 11 boundaries and 6 sixes.
Though the final over clipped India’s hopes a bit, the target of 296 was still astronomical for the Proteas.
India sailed on to a smooth start as Zaheer Khan dismantled the stumps of Andrew Hall to give India early success. This was followed by a phenomenal piece of fielding and a fine run out by Saurav Ganguly to get rid of the dangerous Gary Kirsten.
Post this, South Africa never seemed to settle and things went further downhill.
Ganguly’s bowling manoeuvres worked like magic as South Africa was wobbling at 106 for 5 after Yuvraj dismissed Jonty Rhodes.
This is where Lance Kluesner and Mark Boucher started stitching a resistance.
Just as it felt that South Africa has a downright chance of overturning this overwhelming victory in their favour, the Indian skipper introduced himself to the attack.
On the very first delivery of his over, he got rid of the set Mark Boucher with theatrical flourish as Sachin gobbled up a comfortable catch, snuffing out all hopes of a South African comeback. This wicket of Boucher quelled every single chance of a fightback from the Proteas.
A combined effort from the Indian bowlers saw India cruise to the final after they thumped a formidable South Africa by 95 runs.
Saurav Ganguly was adjudged as the Man of the Match for his blistering knock and also a crucial role in picking up Boucher and putting an end to Gary Kirsten.
2. Kapil Dev versus Zimbabwe, 1983 World Cup
After the fiery spell of Curran and Rawson to kickstart proceedings, even the biggest firebrand of India couldn’t have anticipated the dramatic turnaround which India rode on to clinch this thriller.
Curran and Rawson removed half of India’s batting line up with their blistering pace and swing as India was wobbling at 17 for 5. Srikkanth, Gavaskar, Yashpal Sharma, they all failed to the Zimbabwean might.
This is when the captain walked out to the middle. Kapil Dev and Roger Binny started doing initial repairs to the sinking ship. Despite Binny’s anchoring stance, Kapil Dev went after the bowlers, not willing to drift away from his natural game. After a 60-run partnership where Dev contributed the majority of runs, Roger Binny fell victim to Traicos.
Ravi Shastri made situations worse as he walked in, played 6 deliveries and holed out to Pycroft. India was further left reeling at 78 for 7. The tail was exposed and Kapil Dev was the only recognised name in the middle.
Madan Lal was the new batsman in and Kapil Dev once again started hewing away at the bowlers with Lal taking a stand at the other end.
Though the resistance didn’t last for long, they still managed to claw their way to 140 before Curran put an end to Madan Lal’s stand.
Next up was Syed Kirmani and Kapil Dev’s instructions to the wicket keeper was rock solid. Kirmani had to hang in and Dev will attack. The wicket keeper of India did an absolutely phenomenal task of anchoring the innings while Dev carried on with his carnage.
India didn’t lose anymore wicket and they could plunder a formidable 266 runs for the loss of 8 wickets at the end of 60 overs.
Kapil Dev finished unbeaten on 175 from 138 deliveries which comprised 16 boundaries and 6 over boundaries.
With a mammoth total of 267 to win, Zimbabwe did get off to a flying start, courtesy of Brown and Paterson. However, India struck back firmly as within very short succession, Zimbabwe was hobbling at 113 for 6.
It was Curran again who battled until the end for Zimbabwe but couldn’t save the game as the Indian bowlers ran riot through the Zimbabwean batting line up.
Madan Lal was the pick of the slew as he scalped three crucial wickets to snuff out the resistance.
Dev’s staggering 175 proved to be what India needed to hammer down their opponents.
3. MS Dhoni versus Sri Lanka, 2011 World Cup Final:
India managed to get off to a wonderful start unless Jayawardene and Thisara Perera’s late heroics steered the game in Sri Lanka’s favour.
Despite a great start from Zaheer Khan in the initial overs, he got hammered for 43 runs in his final 3 overs which proves the fact that Sri Lanka upped the ante and threw down the gauntlet at India’s feet to chase a titanic total and win.
India was left reeling early as Malinga gobbled up Sehwag for naught in the first two deliveries of the game. He shortly got rid of Sachin Tendulkar with an exquisite out-swinger that nicked his bat and went into the safe arms of Sangakkara, erupting the Sri Lankan fans in a delirious rapture.
Next up was Kohli and he did some repairs with Gambhir finally coming to a halt at 35 while India was again wobbling at 114 for 3.
Just when everyone expected the in-form Yuvraj to walk out, the captain took it on him to steer India to glory.
Dhoni waited at the other end, stealing occasional singles while Gambhir played with an attacking stance.
After spending 24 deliveries at the crease, that is when Dhoni opened up going to the back foot and battering Muralidaran for a boundary. That was the ignition point for the Indian skipper.
He shortly charged Perera with a brilliant cut shot to garner his second boundary.
He continued the crucial partnership with Gambhir until the latter got out for 97 after attempting a needless shot that was supposed to be flashy but Perera knocked down his stumps.
Once again after some considerable waiting by the side of Yuvraj, Dhoni hammered Perera for a sixer in classic fashion.
With the match slipping away from Sri Lanka’s grasp, they brought back to attack their best weapon, Lasith Malinga. This turned out to be a fatal mistake as Dhoni took Malinga head on, smashing two boundaries of the very first two deliveries that he faced.
It was the captain who dealt the telling blow as he smacked Nuwan Kulasekara for a whopping sixer to win India’s second world cup. Dhoni finished his innings on an unbeaten 91.
4. Virat Kohli versus West Indies, 1st T20, 2019:
India was pitted against the World Champions in the first T-20 in their tour of India. The champions posted a mammoth total of 207.
Evin Lewis started the onslaught and it was duly followed up by King and Hetmeyer.
Pollard and Holder blasted as much as they can to propel the visitors past 200.
India suffered an early blow to their chase as Pierre got rid of Rohit Sharma for cheap.
Kohli took it on him to stitch the innings and played out a fabulous partnership with KL Rahul to provide India a strong platform.
After Rahul got dismissed, Kohli carried on the destruction with Pant. The Indian captain finally stayed unbeated to ensure India’s success in this remarkable run chase smashing a meaty 94 off only 50 deliveries that comprised 6 fours and 6 sixes.
5. Rahul Dravid versus West Indies, 4th Test, 2006
Despite being India’s vice captain for some considerable time, he was fairly new to the monumental task of leading India after Ganguly was mired in a series of rocking controversies.
The series was locked at a tie when India had to overcome a tough Caribbean squad to lift the trophy.
India was batting first and very shortly found themselves startled by some excellent bowling from the visitors.
Jerome Taylor and Pedro Collins made quick work of the openers as both Sehwag and Jaffer returned to the pavilion for naught and 1 respectively.
Rahul Dravid took up the onus of doing amends to the innings and he himself started plundering anything that he could. India lost wickets at regular intervals, thereby repeatedly jeopardizing Dravid’s efforts.
Anil Kumble played a crucial role in the end to give Dravid ample time to push India to a decent 200 while the skipper himself scored a painstaking 81.
When India came out to bowl, it was the visitor’s turn to be shocked. Sreesanth did to Gayle what Taylor and Collins did to India.
Lara and Ganga offered some steep resistance but it soon fizzled away as Harbhajan Singh weaved wizardry through his spin and razed through the West Indian batting order limiting them to a meager 103 runs. India managed to take a 97 run lead.
India’s batting conditions worsened in the second innings. Jaffer and Sehwag were once again dismissed early and Laxman couldn’t last for long either.
The Indian skipper once again took it on him to rebuild the innings and successfully steered India to another respective total of 171 with himself scoring 68 off 166 deliveries.
With 268 to win, Indian bowlers started making early inroads and kept on striking West Indies at regular intervals.
After the first innings dominance of Harbhajan Singh, it was Anil Kumble who scalped 6 wickets to rattle West Indies for 219, winning the game by 49 runs.
Rahul Dravid was correctly adjudged as the man of the match for his persistent performances in both the innings.