Former pacer Ashish Nehra had the privilege to play under India's two most successful captains Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni during his international career. Under Ganguly's leadership, Nehra was part of the team, which were the runner-ups of 2003 World Cup, meanwhile, he lifted the same coveted trophy with Dhoni as captain in 2011.
Nehra's two decades long-career was hit by many injuries, but the paceman made several comebacks to become a veteran of the game.
Recently in a conversation with former opener turned expert Aakash Chopra on his show Aakashvani, Nehra was asked to name the best captain he played under. Nehra elaborated on the answer and pointed out the key challenges Ganguly and Dhoni faced during their tenure.
“Every captain is different and there is no doubt about it. I have been asked this question several times by the media or even when we are commentating that who is the best Indian captain ever, is it Sourav Ganguly or MS Dhoni?" Nehra said.
“I tell them India played cricket before the 2000s and there were captains like Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Venkataraghavan and Ajit Wadekar as well. We tend to live in the present and forget the past. If you ask someone like Mohinder Amarnath or Madan Lal, they will name either Kapil Dev or Sunil Gavaskar. If you ask Sunny bhai (Gavaskar) he will say Ajit Wadekar.
Nehra claims that every era is different so can't compare the captains of different generations.
“No one talks about Mohammed Azharuddin. He captained India in three World Cups, the most by anyone. So, I feel every era is different,” Nehra said.
The veteran pacer said Ganguly had the challenge to create a new team while Dhoni had a great coach with a readymade squad.
“Among those, I have played under I can only talk about Ganguly and Dhoni as a player as I didn’t play for long enough under the others. Both knew how to get the best out of their players.
“Ganguly had the challenge of creating a new team while Dhoni had a great coach like Gary Kirsten and he had a team that was ready. His challenge was to lead so many senior players.
Nehra said that Ganguly would go to the extent of fighting for his marked players with the selection committee.
“The good thing about Dada (Ganguly) was that he would mark the players he knew he had to back and he would go to the extent of fighting with the selectors and speaking to the president to back them.
“Dhoni was a very calculative captain. He wasn’t impulsive and stayed calm. He used to try and give as much opportunity as he could to the players. He forged a great partnership with Kirsten. He had the likes of Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag, Yuvraj and Harbhajan in his team. Even in the 2007 WT20, he had to lead a team that had seniors. You have to appreciate him for the way he handled himself and the team,” Nehra said.