The necessity of a leader cuts across teams of any kind across the world, be it politics, sport, industry or any other group performance. A leader is not just responsible to lead from the front by setting an example for his team, but he is also the one who can be held accountable for the success or the failure of the team.
The role of a captain in a cricket team assumes huge importance because of the number of on-field decisions he has to take. Generally, the best player in the team dons the captain's hat in the game of cricket and as players gain more experience, they increase their chances of leading their side.
However, there have been players who have been the best performer of their teams for a consistent period of time and even after having gained more experience than any of their teammates, have been unfortunate not to have ever lead their team in the entire span of their career. This article encapsulates the 5 most experienced international cricketers who could never captain their team.
Note: The article pertains to international cricket and does not include records of franchise cricket. Stats have been updated till 20th February, 2019.
#5 James Anderson
The 36-year-old Englishman James Anderson is not just one of England's greatest cricketers of all time, but also one of the best pacers to have ever graced the sport, his tally of 575 Tests scalps testimony to this fact.
Across a 17 year long career that began in 2002 and looks good for more, Jimmy has featured in 361 international matches and picked 862 wickets, earning him respect and accolades from across the globe.
Fitness has been the reason behind his longevity which in turn, coupled with his immense talent and accuracy, has proven to be his winning formula. And even after spending almost half his years as an English cricketer Anderson has not been fortunate enough to lead his team ever.
The closest he came to being captain was in the 2017-18 Ashes Down Under when he replaced Ben Stokes as the vice captain of the team.
#4 Harbhajan Singh
38-year-old Harbhajan Singh represented India in 367 matches in the period 1998 and 2016 and ended up being the most successful off-spinner produced by the nation. With a tally of 417 Test and 269 ODI wickets, the Turbanator was an integral member of the team that rose to the number one ranking as well as lifted the 2011 World Cup.
However, even after being a significant and consistent contributor to the team's success, Bhajji never got the opportunity to lead India in an International match.
Although, captaincy is not something that the Jallandhar born cricketer never experienced as he was handed over the baton to lead IPL franchise Mumbai Indians by the legendary Sachin Tendulkar. He fared well with a 50% win record across 30 matches and also helped his team win the 2011 edition of the now defunct Champions League T20.
#3 Glenn McGrath
Glenn McGrath will have a page of his own if ever there was a book written on the greatest cricketers of all time. Having represented Australia in 376 matches across a career that spanned fifteen years, the New South Welshman turned out to be a captain's delight with ball in hand.
With 563 Test scalps and 380 ODI victims, 'Pigeon' was a nightmare for the batsmen of even the highest pedigree. Part of a team that scored a hat-trick of World Cup triumphs and ruled Test cricket for a decade, McGrath achieved every cricketing honour that was possible.
Just that he never ever got the opportunity to be the captain of his team. There is little doubt that if he possessed the same amount of talent as a batsman, he would have ended leading Australia for many years, a clear pointer of how our game is tilted in the favour of the batsmen.
#2 Yuvraj Singh
The biggest reason why the Prince of Indian cricket Yuvraj Singh is forced to feature on this list is Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Having made his debut in 2000 under the aegis of Sourav Ganguly, Yuvraj had established himself as a match winner for the team by 2007.
It was around this time, post the debacle of the 2007 World Cup that Rahul Dravid relinquished the captaincy and Yuvraj was touted by many to ascend the throne. However, it was not to be as the BCCI and the team management went ahead with Dhoni being the leader of the pack with the southpaw being made his deputy.
As a result, Yuvi, who went on to feature in 402 international matches, never got a chance to lead his country, something that he surely regrets despite having had a glittering career.
Like his state-mate and dear friend Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj too got a chance to lead in the IPL where he fared well with 21 wins in 43 games in 2008 and 2009 for Kings XI Punjab and in 2011 with the Pune Warriors India.
#1 Muttiah Muralitharan
Statistically the greatest bowler of all time, Muttiah Muralitharan represented Sri Lanka in a whopping 495 matches but never got a chance to don the captain's hat. The fact that 1347 wickets were never enough to lead Murali into captaincy proves that leadership is not something that always accompanies talent.
Also, like in the case of McGrath, it is a clear case of how much a batsman is favoured when it comes to deciding a team's captain, even though it is the bowlers for whom a captain eventually sets fields and executes plans
Murali, who not only helped Sri Lanka lift the World Cup in 1996, but also played a crucial role in the Emarald nation's rise as a cricketing superpower, was made vice captain of the team at several occasions but never really went past being the deputy.