When India take on New Zealand at Kanpur on September 22, it will be their 500th Test match since playing the first in 1932. On the historic occasion, at least a dozen former India captains will be felicitated by the UPCA. Most of the captains who led India post-1970 will be at the Green Park to mark the occasion.
This brings us to a question, how many captains have led India in the 499 Test matches to-date? There have been 32 captains, including incumbent Virat Kohli. Most ardent cricket fans are aware that CK Nauydu had led India when they played their first-ever Test match against England at Lord’s in 1932, which they lost by 132 runs.
Over the decades, India have some captains who have led India in just a solitary Test match. They are: Hemu Adhikari, Pankaj Roy, Chandu Borde and Ravi Shastri. Among the long serving captains, MS Dhoni heads the list with 60 matches. Then there are Sourav Ganguly (49), Mohammed Azharuddin (47), Sunil Gavaskar (47), Nawab of Pataudi (40), Kapil Dev (43), Sachin Tendulkar (25), Rahul Dravid (25) and Bishan Bedi (22), who had a fairly long run.
The oldest surviving captain at the moment is Dattajirao Gaekwad, aged 88. He led India in four Test matches against England way back in 1959 at home. Then comes Nari Contractor who is 82 years old. He led India in 12 Test matches and was the skipper when he was hit on the head by Charlie Griffith in a side-match on the Caribbean tour of 1962. That ended his Test career prematurely.
After the injury to Contractor, Pataudi took over the captaincy and led right through the 1960’s barring one match on the 1968 tour of Australia, when Chandu Borde led the team when Pataudi was injured. Thus the whole of 1960’s India had just three skippers — Contractor, Pataudi and stand-in Borde, unlike earlier decades, when the selectors used to chip and change captains mid-series at whims and fancies.
Thereafter almost every captain was given a fairly long run, though there were a few who filled in when the regular skippers were injured or unavailable. Gundappa Viswanath led India in two Test matches, when Gavaskar stepped aside temporarily to allow his brother-in-law do the honours. Shastri led the team in one Test at Chennai — which India won against the West Indies and famous for Narendra Hirwani’s memorable debut — because regular captain Dilip Vengsarkar was unfit.
In the whole of 1990’s India had just two captains, Mohammed Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar. And since 200, India have seen six captains: Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble, Dhoni and Kohli. Sehwag led India in four Test matches when regular skipper was either injured or facing suspension due to ICC code of Conduct.
Of the 32 captains, 12 are no more with us. They are: CK Nayudu, Vizzy, Pataudi Sr, Lala Amarnath, Vijay Hazare, Vinoo Mankad, Ghulam Ahmed, Polly Umrigar, Hemu Adhikari, Pankaj Roy, Gubalrai Ramchand and Nawab of Pataudi Jnr.
- Vijay Hazare led India to their first Test victory – against England in 1951/52
- Nawab of Pataudi led India to their first overseas Test win and first overseas series victory – against New Zealand in 1967/68
- Ajit Wadekar led India to first series wins over England and West Indies in 1971.
- MS Dhoni is the first Indian captain to whitewash Australia in a series with more than 3 Tests.
- Sunil Gavaskar has scored 3449 runs – the highest by any Indian captain. He also holds the record for the highest number of centuries by an Indian captain (11).
- Kapil Dev has 111 wickets in 34 matches as India’s captain.
- Virat Kohli is the youngest Indian captain to win a Test series abroad against Sri Lanka.
- Virat Kohli is the first Indian captain to win 2 Test matches in West Indies and that too in one series.