The Friday column September 7, 2005

The Man Fridays

Throughout the history of the game, the captains with the most wins have been those with able lieutenants who could execute the drawing-board strategies

Perhaps numbers never do reveal the full story, but they tell a large part of it. Every Friday, The Numbers Game will take a look at statistics from the present and the past, busting myths and revealing hidden truths:

Dravid's fabulous batting has underpinned India's finest moments under Ganguly © Getty Images

A captain, they say, is only as good as the ten other men in his team. Under Clive Lloyd, West Indies were an awesome team in the late 1970s, and while Lloyd's contribution cannot be underestimated, he had in his ranks the likes of Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Gordon Greenidge and Viv Richards to put thoughts into action. Similarly, Greg Chappell had at his command a certain bowler who answered to the name Dennis Lillee, Mark Taylor could call upon the wizardry of Shane Warne, Mike Brearley had at his call the considerable talents of Ian Botham.

Throughout the history of the game, the captains with the most wins have been those with reasonable tactical acumen, but, more importantly, they've had at their disposal able lieutenants who could execute the drawing-board strategies. Steve Waugh's team would not have been quite as invincible without Glenn McGrath. What about Richards's West Indians without Malcolm Marshall, or Sourav Ganguly's India without Rahul Dravid? Regis Kumar, one of the readers of Cricinfo, wrote in pointing out Dravid's phenomenal contribution to victories achieved under Ganguly's leadership; The Numbers Game decided to delve deeper, study a few more captains, a few more batsmen, and a few more stats.

In the history of the game, there have only been ten captains with 20 or more Test wins under their belts, and it's interesting to check out the players who have done more than most in securing those victories. (The players considered were those who featured in at least 50% of the wins under a captain.)

Among batsmen, no-one has done more for a team's win under a single captain than Dravid has under Ganguly's leadership. Dravid has been a part of every single one of the 21 wins that Ganguly has achieved, and his scores in those matches are quite staggering: 2571 runs, with nine hundreds - three of them double-centuries - and ten fifties in 32 innings, and a mindboggling average of 102.84. He contributed nearly 23% of the total runs scored by India in those games, that's almost one out of every four runs the team scored.

The only batsman who comes close to those figures is Greg Chappell. When he was leading Australia, he scored over 21% of the runs and made them at more than 80 per innings. None of the other chief contributors, save Steve Waugh under Taylor's leadership, managed such a high average.

Best batsmen in wins for a captain
Batsman/ Captain Total wins under capt/
batsman played in
Runs Average % contribution of total runs in wins
Dravid/ Ganguly 21/ 21 2571 102.84 22.81
GS Chappell/ GS Chappell 21/ 21 2197 81.37 21.18
SR Waugh/ Taylor 26/ 23 2276 81.29 16.37
Haynes/ Richards 27/ 26 2034 54.97 16.25
Greenidge/ Lloyd 36/ 32 2878 61.23 15.75
Boon/ Border 32/ 31 2581 58.66 15.30
Cowdrey/ May 20/ 16 1160 58.00 15.10
Kirsten/ Cronje 27/ 25 1816 45.40 14.26
Fleming/ Fleming 25/ 25 1571 52.37 14.19
Ponting/ SR Waugh 41/ 37 3087 68.60 14.17

Relax the criterion to 15 wins, and a few other dominant names emerge: Don Bradman averaged 123.90 and scored 27.96% of his team's runs in the 15 Tests Australia won under his captaincy. That Bradman should rack up such stats is hardly surprising, but sample this: Hashan Tillakaratne played in the 11 of the 18 Sri Lankan wins under Sanath Jayasuriya, and averaged 123 in those matches, though the fact that he only scored 8% of the team runs in those 18 Tests suggests that other batsmen played equally, if not more, important roles.

The runs made by all these batsmen were no doubt crucial to the team's cause, but a Test win also requires the bowlers to chip in with plenty of wickets. Keeping the 20-Test filter, no-one did that job better than Lillee for Greg Chappell. Of the 21 wins Chappell led Australia to in 48 tries (it's amazing how similar his record is to the captain of the team he's currently coaching - Ganguly has 21 wins in 49), Lillee played in 18, and took 32% of all wickets at less than 17 apiece. Marshall's contribution under Richards is as remarkable, especially the fact that he managed 28% of the wickets at a time when West Indies had excellent depth to their bowling attack. The other usual suspects are Warne, who was Taylor's trumpcard, and Allan Donald, who played a similar role for Hansie Cronje.

All those bowling stats pale when you bring in Muttiah Muralitharan into the picture. Under Sanath Jayasuriya - who, with 18 wins just fails to make the 20-Test cut - Murali has taken 151 wickets in 17 games at 15.44, with a whopping 43% share of the total wickets taken by Sri Lanka in those 18 victories.

Best bowlers in wins for a captain
Bowler/ Captain Total wins under capt/
bowler played in
Wickets Average % contribution of total wkts
Lillee/ Chappell 21/ 18 133 16.59 32.52
Marshall/ Richards 27/ 25 146 16.95 28.24
Warne/ Taylor 26/ 23 132 20.32 25.88
Donald/ Cronje 27/ 24 132 16.74 25.78
Harbhajan/ Ganguly 21/ 17 96 20.88 23.88
McGrath/ SR Waugh 41/ 36 176 17.65 22.65
Holding/ Lloyd 36/ 26 135 17.72 19.59
Lock/ May 20/ 11 72 10.61 18.95
Vettori/ Fleming 25/ 22 84 21.94 17.68
Hughes/Border 32/ 25 109 23.97 17.50

S Rajesh is assistant editor of Cricinfo. For some of the data, he was helped by Arun Gopalakrishnan, the operations manager in Cricinfo's Chennai office.