Good captaincy is partly about putting a player in a position where he's likely to succeed

You have to be lucky to lead a team of great players, but it takes skill to make the most of their talents

Ian Chappell
Ian Chappell
Joe Root walks off after a long day at the office, India vs England, 1st Test, Chennai, 3rd day, February 7, 2021

Joe Root could be an even better captain if he learns to leverage perception and psychology  •  BCCI

Captaincy, is it mainly luck or mostly skill?
Renowned Australian skipper Richie Benaud famously said, "Captaincy is 90% luck and 10% skill. But don't try it without the 10%."
This is that rare occasion where I disagree with Benaud. I think the balance is more like 50-50. Take the first India-England Test in Chennai as an example.
Winning the toss was a lucky break for the England captain, Joe Root. However, his innings exemplified the adage "You make your own luck". His monumental innings of 218 ensured England posted an imposing total that eventually led to a comprehensive victory. The decisive win was built on a strong foundation provided by the captain's high degree of skill with the bat.
Then Jimmy Anderson, deliberately denied the new ball, sliced open the Indian second innings to set England firmly on the victory path with a burst of brilliant swing bowling. This was a specific plan to take advantage of the tendency of the ball to start reverse-swinging at around 25-30 overs. That was clever planning with little luck involved.
There's a large slice of good fortune involved when it comes to the ability of the players a captain has to lead. If he's fortunate to captain in an era where the team is filled with highly skilled players, that's a lucky break. However, the way a captain then capitalises on those talents is a matter of skill. Whether he gets the best out of them or fails to fully utilise their talents is down to his leadership skills. Putting a player in a position where he's likely to succeed - a la Anderson in the second innings - is a tribute to the captain's initiative and planning.
Having good players at his beck and call is a captain's good fortune, but the time he spends with those team-mates outside of playing hours building trust and respect is an example of strong leadership. No luck involved there. And neither is there any in a captain's ability to recognise the different strengths of each player and then find ways to take advantage of those skills so that the team benefits.
This is an aspect of Root's leadership where he has greatly improved. His confidence as captain has grown in proportion to his own outstanding performance with the bat. Root is to be admired for the ability to recognise his past inadequacies and learn from them.
The strategy side of captaincy is often learned from decisions that go awry and then need to be rectified. It's how quickly doubtful decisions are reversed that often define a good captain.
One aspect of captaincy where Root can improve even further is in the art of perception and psychology - two crucial aspects of Test match captaincy.
Despite having a brilliant all-round game in the first Test, Root failed to take full advantage of England's superiority at a critical time in the game. Instead of oscillating between all-out attack and inexplicable defence in the late stages of their second innings, England should have pushed on aggressively in order to declare and set a target.
This would have sent a strong message to India: we are not worried by your much-vaunted batting line-up. If Root had declared instead of being bowled out, it could have provided him with a valuable psychological advantage later in the series. In sending a message of confidence it could easily have had an effect on a decision Virat Kohli has to make later in the series.
Any prospective international captain could do worse than digest the words of Bob Hudson's mid-'70s "The Newcastle Song", where he advises, "Don't you ever let a chance go by, oh Lord, don't you ever let a chance go by."
It remains to be seen whether that missed opportunity in the first Test comes back to haunt Root later in the series. Oh, the vagaries of the job, where luck can often be the difference between good and bad captaincy.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a columnist