Captain of the year January 14, 2017

Who led the best?

Raunak Kapoor
Kohli's India were unstoppable, so were Faf's South Africa

Play 01:11

Virat Kohli
Tests: Played 12, Won 9, Drawn 3, Lost 0

No team won as much in 2016 as India, and Kohli was on a mission to dominate in the long home season. In just his second year as the full-time Test captain, he can already boast of India's longest ever unbeaten run in Tests - 18 matches and counting. India's nine Test wins in 2016 is also the most that they have ever managed in a calendar year. Anil Kumble's presence and pragmatism and R Ashwin's extraordinary form with bat and ball have helped, but Kohli's own contributions with the bat in 2016 were significant: 1215 runs at 75.93, four centuries, including three doubles - all pivotal to India's series wins: in West Indies, and against New Zealand and England at home. Kohli started the year aggressive and ambitious; he ended it invincible.

England are remarkably un-England-like under Eoin Morgan © AFP

Eoin Morgan
ODIs: Played 15, Won 9, Lost 4, Tied 1, NR 1
T20Is: Played 10, Won 5, Lost 5

It seems remarkable that England go into the Champions Trophy in June as considerable favourites, given that they were, by some distance, the worst team in the 2015 World Cup. Such has been their radical transformation as an ODI side under Morgan. A destructive opening pair, a robust middle order, a variety of quality seam options, and a wealth of allrounders, all the evidence 2016 had to offer suggests that Morgan has developed a formidable limited-overs unit - one that was set for a World T20 title, before Carlos Brathwaite happened. Yet they picked themselves up from the heartbreak in Kolkata and brushed aside Sri Lanka and Pakistan with remarkable ease in ODIs, having gone down narrowly to South Africa at the start of the year. The depth of their strength was displayed further when they ended Bangladesh's ODI run at home without key first-team names, including Morgan himself. This is a side that any team should fear now, and they have their captain to thank to a significant degree for that.

Faf du Plessis was brimming with love by the end of the year © Cricket Australia/Getty Images

Faf du Plessis
Tests: Played 6, Won 4, Drawn 1, Lost 1
ODIs: Played 6, Won 6
T20Is: Played 9, Won 5, Lost 4

South Africa's year started in a shambles. When they were bowled out for 83 at the Wanderers, both a home series and the Test No. 1 ranking were lost to England. That series also turned out to be AB de Villiers' last as Test captain. By the time it was officially announced that de Villiers was stepping down, du Plessis was already on a roll, having won Test series over New Zealand at home and Australia away. He brought stability to a job that three men had held in 12 months. He also got the most out of South Africa's supporting cast, making the likes of Stephen Cook, Temba Bavuma, JP Duminy, Kyle Abbott and Kagiso Rabada step up in the absence of de Villiers and Dale Steyn. Limited-overs fortunes were mixed. The World T20 campaign was as forgettable as the ODI series whitewash over Australia was memorable, but all in all it was a year in which du Plessis got more things right than wrong, and possibly one that marks greater things to come, now that he has the job full-time across formats.

Kane Williamson (left) showed a canny side to his game at the World T20, but couldn't do the same in the Test series in India © IDI/Getty Images

Kane Williamson
Tests: Played 8, Won 4, Lost 3, Drawn 1
ODIs: Played 14, Won 7, Lost 6, NR 1
T20Is: Played 10, Won 8, Lost 2

Kane Williamson had massive shoes to fill once Brendon McCullum signed off with a bang in Christchurch in February. Could he fill the void McCullum had left? Could he carry on his style and brand of captaincy and cricket? Would it come as naturally to him as it had done to McCullum? And more importantly, could he get the results that, at times, even McCullum couldn't? After his first year in the job, Williamson is one of the few international captains who got it more right than wrong, if only just. He led expertly during the group stages of the World T20, stunning India with his trio of spinners in Nagpur, and was not afraid to chop and change as the situation demanded even after New Zealand became the only unbeaten side through the group stage. Their Test fortunes were mixed, with defeats to South Africa and India away; thumping a No. 2-ranked Pakistan Test side for the first time in 31 years was the year's high. Likewise in ODIs, series wins at home against Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh just about cancelled out Williamson's defeats in India and Australia.

At the start of 2016, no one would have predicted that Pakistan would become the No. 1 Test side in the world © PA Photos

Tests: Played 10, Won 6, Lost 4

Consecutive series defeats towards the end of the year might take the sheen off this nomination, but the fact remains that Misbah was faced with an itinerary that most subcontinent captains would have dreaded. His start to a year that included visits to England, New Zealand and Australia couldn't have been better: a scene-setter of a hundred at Lord's, followed by his side topping the ICC rankings when they valiantly came from behind at The Oval a month later. An expected triumph over West Indies in the UAE followed, but Misbah and his men were humbled either side of the Tasman Sea soon after. Yet, in a year of striking contrast for his side's fortunes, Misbah instilled a sense of resilience in Pakistan's batting. That's how they squared things in England, and almost pulled off a miracle in Brisbane. The results might not reflect it, but for holding the Test mace, albeit for 51 days in the year, Misbah just about justifies his place in this list.

Raunak Kapoor is a presenter at ESPNcricinfo. RaunakRK