Cricinfo XI

Young turks at the top

Eleven instances where selectors decided to plump for young or inexperienced captains over seasoned campaigners

Siddarth Ravindran

October 11, 2007

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India and Pakistan have both picked young captains over the last few months. Cricinfo takes a look at XI instances when selectors decided to plump for fresh blood at the helm over seasoned campaigners.



Graeme Smith: South Africa's youngest captain © Getty Images
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Graeme Smith, 22 (South Africa)
Shaun Pollock's captaincy skills came under fire after heavy losses both home and away to Australia in 2002. A miscalculation relating to Duckworth-Lewis totals saw South Africa crash out agonisingly from the 2003 World Cup, and the end of Pollock's reign. Perhaps sensing the need to make a decisive break with the Hansie Cronje era, Smith, who had never played with or against Cronje, was made captain when he was just eight Tests and 22 years old. His combative nature and media savvy, first in evidence when he spoke out against sledging by the Australians during his debut series, have helped him survive the tribulations of leading a team in post-apartheid South Africa.

Javed Miandad, 22 (Pakistan)
The post of Pakistan captain fell vacant in 1980 after Asif Iqbal retired following a 0-2 loss to arch-rivals India. Though there were several senior players such as Sarfraz Nawaz, Wasim Bari, Majid Khan and - notably - Zaheer Abbas in the side, the Pakistan board under the stewardship of Nur Khan placed its faith in Miandad, then 22. There was vocal opposition to his appointment but Miandad's first two series as captain included a win against Australia and a credible 0-1 loss to West Indies. A tough tour of Australia followed, rumours of an unhappy dressing room gained strength, and a player revolt during the subsequent home series against Sri Lanka ended Miandad's first captaincy stint.

Lee Germon, 26 (New Zealand)
Ken Rutherford was relieved of the New Zealand captaincy after he lost six and won just one of his 12 games immediately previous. Glenn Turner, the newly appointed coach, was impressed with Germon's leadership skills at the provincial level with Canterbury, a side which included experienced internationals such as Chris Cairns and Chris Harris. Though Germon had played just a solitary one-day international and no Tests, he was given the reins of the New Zealand side. He led the side in 12 Tests and the results were as indifferent as during the end of Rutherford's stint.

Mohammad Ashraful, 22 (Bangladesh)
A horror run with the bat during the 2007 World Cup saw the pressure mount on then captain Habibul Bashar. A poor show in the series that followed against India was enough for the selectors to choose someone who would lead from the front with his performances - Ashraful, who at the tender age of 22 was Bangladesh's best batsman. Incidentally, two years before his appointment, Ashraful was quoted as saying, "I don't want to think about captaincy for five more years at least." Without the help of a full-time coach, he has found the going tough, considering he leads a side prone to inconsistency, and answers to a demanding public.



Adam Hollioake was part of a radical step to have separate captains for Tests and ODIs © Getty Images
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Adam Hollioake, 27 (England)
Michael Atherton decided to give up the reins of the one-day side after a rare 3-0 sweep of Australia in 1997, and England took the revolutionary step of having separate captains for Tests and ODIs. Hollioake, all of five ODIs old, was put in charge of the ODI squad, and the experiment was initially successful as England triumphed in a four-nation tournament in Sharjah. But things went quickly downhill and six defeats from the next eight games ensured the end of his reign.

MAK Pataudi, 21 (India)
Few players in history have had as rapid a turnaround in cricket fortunes as Pataudi. In July 1961 he was injured in a car accident that caused him to effectively lose sight in his right eye, provoking fears that a great cricket talent might be lost. Astonishingly, within six months, he made his Test debut and a further three months later, when his captain Nari Contractor had his skull fractured after being struck by a Charlie Griffith bouncer, Pataudi was catapulted into the top job. He went on to become one of India's most celebrated captains and led them in 40 of his 46 Tests.

Javed Burki, 24 (Pakistan)
A cousin of two other Pakistan captains, Imran Khan and Majid Khan, Burki was put at the helm of the Pakistan side for the 1962 tour to England after he had played eight Tests. This was despite his having minimal first-class captaincy experience, and the presence in the side of the legendary Hanif Mohammad, who had made his debut a full eight years before Burki. It was a dismal series for Pakistan as Ted Dexter's side thrashed them 4-0, with rain saving Pakistan in the only game that was drawn.

Mohammad Azharuddin, 26 (India)
Five years after his dazzling entry to Test cricket, Azharuddin was elevated to the captaincy of the Indian team for the 1990 tour of New Zealand. He took over from Krishnamachari Srikkanth, who was stripped of the captaincy due to his poor batting - though he led India to a respectable draw on the Pakistan tour. Azharuddin led a team that had four former captains - Kapil Dev, Dilip Vengsarkar, Ravi Shastri and Srikkanth. After an indifferent start, he went on to become India's most successful captain at the time with 14 Test wins.



Ivo Bligh led the side which regained the Ashes in 1882-83 © Cricinfo
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Ivo Bligh, 23 (England)
After stints as captain of Cambridge University and Kent, Ivo Bligh was appointed captain of the England side that toured Australia in 1882-83. He led the team to a 2-1 series victory over Australia, who, chasing a modest 153 in the decider in Sydney, were bundled out for 83. After the match, some Australian ladies burned a bail, sealed the ashes in an urn and presented it to Bligh and thus the "ashes of English cricket' were regained after having been lost in the famous Oval Test of 1882. After his playing days, Bligh served as president of the MCC and of Kent.

Richie Benaud, 28 (Australia)
Benaud was one of the most inventive and charismatic Test captains, losing just four of the 28 games in which he led Australia. In his first series in charge of the side, he took 31 wickets to help Australia thrash England 4-0 and regain the Ashes, which his teams retained on two further occasions. The high point of his stint was the 1960-61 series against West Indies, which included the first tied Test, where his and Frank Worrell's attacking captaincy helped revive the Australian public's waning interest in Test cricket. The series had a tremendous impact, even managing to attract a then record crowd of 90,000 in a single day.

Prosper Utseya, 21 (Zimbabwe)
After their side's high-flying 1999 World Cup campaign, Zimbabwe cricket has lurched from crisis to crisis. Tensions with the board over pay and quotas, and political turmoil in the country (remember Andy Flower's and Henry Olonga's protest against the "death of democracy" at the 2003 World Cup?) all combined to lead to the disintegration of the side. After Tatenda Taibu quit international cricket, and unsuccessful stints by unlikely captains such as Brian Murphy and Terry Duffin, Utseya was named captain just 18 hours before the start of a ODI series against Bangladesh in 2006. While the results have been disappointing, there have been a few bright spots during his tenure, most notably a thrilling win in his maiden series and the shock victory over Australia in the ICC World Twenty20.

Siddarth Ravindran is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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