Standing in at the deep end
It's been a week to remember in the captaincy stakes, with Zimbabwe's Terry Duffin plucked from obscurity, and England's Andrew Flintoff stepping into the breach for England. Here, Cricinfo recalls 11 other captains who weren't exactly the most obvious picks. Can you think of any others? Send them to feedback.
Outstanding as a provincial leader with Canterbury, Lee Germon's captaincy skills were tested to the max in 1995-96, when he was plucked from obscurity to become the on-field mouthpiece for New Zealand's authoritarian new coach, Glenn Turner. For a while, his improbable selection passed muster, with Germon holding his own as a limited lower-order batsman and reasonably proficient wicketkeeper. But he was never able to command the absolute respect of his team-mates and, when Steve Rixon succeeded Turner in 1997, his demise followed swiftly.
By the time the teams set off for Mohali, Andrew Flintoff will probably have keeled over with a hernia and England will be onto their fourth skipper in as many Tests. But for the time being, the record for most England captains in a three-month period remains with the beleaguered squad of 1988. Mike Gatting was fired for an alleged dalliance with a barmaid, John Emburey was dropped after two matches in charge, and Graham Gooch - whom Ted Dexter described as having the "charisma of a wet fish" - was overlooked until the very last opportunity. And so Cowdrey was handed the poisoned chalice by his godfather, the chairman of selectors, Peter May.
Maharaj Kumar of Vizianagram
A legend in his own lunchtime, Vizzy - as he was universally known - was short, squat, bespectacled and talentless ... but unspeakably rich. A great patron of the game, he persuaded luminaries such as Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe to ply their trade in India, and when he led the 1936 Indian squad on a disastrous tour of England, he was knighted for his efforts. His autocratic leadership did little to improve India's fortunes on that trip either. He sent their one true great - Lala Amarnath - home for disciplinary reasons, and brought CK Nayudu and Wazir Ali's careers to early ends as well. He made 33 runs in his three-Test career but, his enthusiasm undimmed, later returned to the game as a broadcaster and administrator.
The Vizianagram de nos jours, Sultan Zarawani was the one native-born member of the team of ex-pats and mercenaries who masqueraded as the UAE national squad at the 1996 World Cup. In theory he was a legspinner and lower-order batsman, but in practice he was a sitting duck, especially when he chose to face the mighty Allan Donald without a helmet. Despite receiving due warning, he was promptly felled by a perfectly directed bouncer. Even then, he refused to swallow his pride and call for a lid, but mercifully he was dismissed six balls later, when Brian McMillan had him caught at mid-off by Hansie Cronje.
As a legspinner, the Zimbabwean Brian Murphy showed enough talent in his developing years to be courted by the South African national squad, while he was at university in Cape Town. As a captain, however, he was less in demand, and when in 2001, Heath Streak stepped down to concentrate on his bowling, Murphy's appointment came entirely out of the blue. After four wicketless one-day games in Sharjah, and a drawn (wicketless) Test against Bangladesh, he sustained a hand injury, and never led his country again.
The last England player to captain on his debut. With Ray Illingworth ruled out through injury, the selectors wanted a skipper who would be able to handle the political sensitivities of a joint tour to India and Pakistan in 1972-73. Lewis did all that was asked of him, on and off the field, and made some valuable runs, including a hundred at Kanpur, even though England lost the series in India. Illingworth resumed the following summer, and Lewis played only the first Test of the season before injury ended his brief international foray.
Even in an era when class often mattered more than ability in terms of selection - more so for the captaincy when amateur status was paramount - Lieutenant-Colonel Rony Stanyforth was an unusual choice to lead England to South Africa in 1926-27. A decent enough wicketkeeper with no real ability with the bat, he had never played county cricket and failed to get a Blue at Oxford, although he was a perfect ambassador off the field, which was as important in those days. He led England in four Tests, and also toured West Indies in 1929-30. In between, he finally made his Championship debut for Yorkshire - but he still played more Tests than county games.
A veteran of 19 Tests (and 41 years), Close was picked to make his ODI debut in 1972 in the absence of the injured Ray Illingworth. He was regarded as a shrewd one-day tactician and gutsy batsman, and he guided England to a 2-1 win against Australia in his only three ODI appearances. His international career was far from over, and in 1976 he was recalled for three Tests against West Indies. He carried on playing first-class cricket until he was 55, and was still leading Yorkshire's 2nd XI into his sixties, almost fifty years after his debut.
In the 1960s he had been one of Australia's leading batsmen, but when he retired aged only 32 in 1968 that seemed to be that. But nine-and-a-half years later, Simpson, 41, who had not played first-class cricket in that time, answered an SOS from the Australian board who needed someone experienced to lead a side decimated by defections to World Series Cricket. He underlined his class, averaging 53.90 in five Tests in the Caribbean after a wobbly start at home to India, and squared a two-ODI series in his only two limited-overs appearances.
A dependable rather than outstanding 44-year-old slow left-armer, Gifford had played the last of his 15 Tests almost 12 years earlier when he was picked to lead England in an ODI series in Sharjah. England, with many first-choice players rested after a gruelling winter, lost both matches, but Gifford took 0 for 27 and 4 for 23 in his two ten-over spells. He finished with an ODI career average of 12.50 and an economy rate of 2.50.
Despite scoring only 55 runs in his previous two matches, John Goddard was appointed to lead West Indies against England in only his third Test in 1947-48. But in those times selection for West Indies leadership was restricted to whites, and to accommodate other players, Goddard was promoted to open the innings in place of Andy Ganteaume, who had made 112 in the previous match (which turned out to be his only Test innings). Goddard made 1 and 3, but made amends with the ball to take 5 for 31 and his tactical awareness was praised. He went on to lead West Indies in 22 Tests with great success.