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  5. Explained | Why is it unfair to compare Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni as captains

Explained | Why is it unfair to compare Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni as captains

It would be wrong to point out which captain gave how many match-winners to Team India. Both are legends of the game, both had different challenges ahead of them and both overcame them like leaders do, ultimately contributing towards the team.

Aratrick Mondal Written by: Aratrick Mondal
New Delhi Updated on: July 23, 2020 9:50 IST
Explained | Why is it unfair to compare Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni as captains
Image Source : GETTY IMAGES

Explained | Why is it unfair to compare Sourav Ganguly (right) and MS Dhoni (left) as captains

Few Indian skippers find their mention when world cricket is taken into perspective. Here, we are talking about some of the all-time greats. And Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni will arguably stand above all the stalwarts who have led India so far, no matter the format, no matter the number of matches. Ganguly, who took over the reins before the start of this century, led the side in 97 international matches, with the period stretching roughly over six years. Dhoni, who had a longer period leading the Indian team, has the most number of wins as a captain for the nation. His period lasted almost a decade, although he had stepped down from the role of a Test captain three years before handing over the limited-over teams to his successor, Virat Kohli

But why these two? India have had Kapil Dev, the one who led the nation to their first-ever World Cup win, a victory that literally changed the meaning of this sport in the country; there was also Sunil Gavaskar and Mohammad Azharuddin and Rahul Dravid, who many claims to be an "underrated" skipper. Or why not the present incumbent, Virat Kohli, who besides leading the team, has set umpteen batting records? 

Dhoni's picking is comprehensible, from the fact we mentioned earlier. However, in terms of overall wins, Ganguly stands fourth on the list, behind Kohli and Azharuddin. But there is always more to captaincy then what the overall win numbers depict. 

Ganguly's contribution goes beyond numbers. One of the many valid reasons which Dada's ardent fans will put forth in the argument is the time of Ganguly's appointment as the captain. It came at a time when Indian cricket was rocked by the match-fixing scandal. Some of the big names of that era were slapped with a suspension. Meanwhile, cricketers of that era, like Nasser Hussain or Graeme Smith have opined that Ganguly brought out that feistiness to Indian cricket, making them believe that they can even win abroad. In fact, Ganguly has more away wins as a Test captain than Dhoni with a win percentage of 39 (11 out of 29) as compared to the latter's 20.

"In difficult conditions, he started winning Test matches. That's when India believed we can beat England in England, Australia in Australia and Pakistan in Pakistan. That belief came from Ganguly," Kris Srikanth told Star Sports in a recent talk show about Ganguly versus Dhoni as captain.

"Ganguly brought a hardness and a toughness to Indian cricket. He certainly was a huge pillar in the strength of Indian cricket and where it's gone to today," added Smith to the discussion.

Meanwhile, for Dhoni, he had his own set of challenges. Imagine having a room full of some of the best players of the generation and having to pick from them? Besides taking that tough call of leaving one out, there was a bigger call of handling those big names on the field. But Dhoni had done it effortlessly at a time when the Indian dressing room had Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid. 

But what if you have to choose between the two to pick India's greatest ever captain? Maybe dig up some stats like big tournaments won, win percentage, victories away from home, batting contributions. All could definitely provide a perspective, although not entirely, to frame a conclusion, and many veteran cricketers, in fact, opined picking up statistics, especially the performance of the team at home and away. But among them was a comment about match-winners with former cricketer Gautam Gambhir claiming that Dhoni did not give enough match-winners to his successor, unlike Ganguly. 

"When MS Dhoni finished [his captaincy stint], he hasn't given enough quality players to Virat Kohli, apart from Virat Kohli himself and Rohit Sharma, or Jasprit Bumrah now. There are not too many world beaters or probably people who win you tournaments. But look at what Sourav Ganguly gave to Indian cricket: Yuvraj Singh, Man of the Series in two World Cups [Yuvraj was only Man of the Series in the 2011 World Cup; Shahid Afridi was Man of the Series in the 2007 World T20], Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag - these kinds of world-beaters," he told Star Sports.

India Tv - Sourav Ganguly

Image Source : GETTY IMAGES

Sourav Ganguly

For Ganguly, it was a period of transition when he took over the responsibility of leading the side. Hence, much of his period went at finding that right combination and back-up options to create a fearless side. Overall, 67 cricketers played under his captaincy and 38 made their debut. Amongst those debutants were Zaheer, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Gambhir, Irfan Pathan and Dhoni. And as claimed by Gambhir, they were all truly match-winners. Meanwhile, there are two others - Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag - who did not make their India debuts under Ganguly but were molded into a world-beater by him. Imagine what would have happened to that Eden Gardens classic in 2001 had Ganguly not backed Harbhajan?

Meanwhile, 83 players featured during Dhoni's captaincy and 63 made their debuts under him. And of those debutants who eventually turned out to be match-winners were Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah and the spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Besides, Dhoni also played a key role in the careers of Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma, both of whom did not make their debut under him, but were turned into match-winners. The world would have been robbed of a maverick in Rohit had Dhoni not backed him to open during Champions Trophy 2013. 

Going back to Gambhir's comment, yes some of the players from Ganguly's era did play a key role in the achievements that Dhoni had. Pathan, Harbhajan and himself were pivotal in India's WT20 win in 2007. Meanwhile, six players (including Dhoni and excluding Sachin) from Ganguly's time were part of the 2011 World Cup-winning team. But a lot depends on how the captain look's at your role despite what the player has achieved in his career. Especially when it comes to Dhoni 

To prepare a team for the 2011 World Cup, Dhoni had eyes on a young team with fit fielders and hence he had taken a bold call in dropping both Ganguly and Dravid ahead of the 2008 tri-series in Australia solely for their poor fielding. During the World Cup, there was a key selection choice that Dhoni had made - using Yuvraj as a part-time spinner. The latter, as rightfully claimed by Gambhir, picked up the Man of the Series award for his immense all-round haul. There was another bold call that Dhoni had taken, which later caused a controversy. He had played only two between Sehwag, Sachin and Gambhir till the last league game of the CB tri-series in 2012 for the reason that they were "slow movers". The move had eventually backfired after India failed to qualify for the final, but Dhoni did it with the intention of creating a team for the 2015 World Cup. 

Maybe statistics can help in concluding this debate of the better captain between Dhoni and Ganguly, but the point of "match-winners" is simply absurd. A captain can have the best team in the world, but it depends on how he uses the resources to create a match-winning team. Both are legends of the game, both had different challenges ahead of them and both overcame them like leaders do, ultimately contributing towards the team.