One of the not so obvious aspects about the World Cup 2019 is the number of players who will be captaining their team at the global event for the first time. As many as seven players will be leading their respective teams for the first time in a World Cup – including a couple of them who were handed the reins of the team just prior to the ten-team tournament.
What are the captain’s records like heading into the World Cup? Which captain’s numbers look good, and which captain’s numbers are disappointing?
Sri Lanka - Dimuth Karunaratne
Barely a fortnight before his team’s first World Cup 2019 match, Dimuth Karunaratne made his debut as Sri Lanka’s ODI captain. The 31-year old became Sri Lanka’s 23rd ODI captain – and the seventh player in the last two years to captain the island nation’s ODI team.
Karunaratne’s ascension is puzzling because he was nowhere in Sri Lanka’s plans for the 50-over format; he’s had three previous unsuccessful stints in the 50-over team – in 2011, 2013 and 2015, and was not only recalled to the team, but even made captain!
- Win% as captain: 100.0% (1 ODI)
Faf du Plessis - South Africa
Among all those players who will be seen captaining teams at the World Cup, and among those who have been in the captain’s saddle for a little while, Faf du Plessis has the best record; he has led South Africa to 25 wins in the 30 ODIs he has been in-charge. The 34-year old, who will be captaining South Africa for the first time in a World Cup, has asked his teammates to focus on “enjoyment” and not put undue pressure on themselves.
Prior to his team’s departure to England, du Plessis spelt out the difference between how teams in the past had approached the World Cup, and how his team would compete in the World Cup.
"“In previous World Cups, we wanted to do Superman things. We thought we had to be more special, we had to do something more than we usually do, and we did not do what was good enough.”" - Faf du Plessis
Looking ahead to the forthcoming tournament, he said, “(We have to do) Whatever we've been doing consistently; the way we've played while beating teams, that will work. We have to do the basics as well as possible; teams don't win the World Cup by someone scoring a century off 50 balls or taking 7 for 20.”
Can du Plessis become the first captain to take South Africa past the cursed Semi-final stage?
- Win% as captain: 83.3% (30 ODIs)
Virat Kohli - India
The 2019 event will be Virat Kohli’s first World Cup as India captain. The 30-year old will have fond memories returning to England, where he bossed the England team in the Test series last summer.
Virat joins an elite club of six other players who have captained India in the World Cup: S Venkataraghavan (1975 & 1979), Kapil Dev (1983 & 1987), Mohammad Azharuddin (1992, 1996 & 1999), Sourav Ganguly (2003), Rahul Dravid (2007) and MS Dhoni (2011 & 2015).
Virat, who had a disastrous season as Royal Challengers Bangalore captain, will be back in the familiar confines of the India set-up. In the press conference before the team’s departure, he spoke about the need for the team to ‘handle pressure’. Will he able to control the dressing room atmosphere, ensure the players don’t feel excessive pressure, and motivate them to play their absolute best cricket all the time?
- Win% as captain: 73.1% (68 ODIs)
Gulbadin Naib - Afghanistan
Gulbadin Naib’s elevation as captain took many by surprise. At a time when the team was doing exceedingly well, the Afghanistan Cricket Board selectors stirred a hornet’s nest when they decided to relieve Asghar Afghan from captaincy and handed the reins to Naib. The decision attracted criticism from several members of the team too; Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi were vocal in their disapproval of the decision to change captains barely months before the World Cup.
28-year old Gulbadin has started his captaincy tenure well; he has led Afghanistan to wins in two of his first three ODIs in-charge – even personally registering bowling figures of 6 for 43 (best figures by an Afghanistan pacer in ODIs) in the win against Ireland on 21 May.
- Win% as captain: 66.7% (3 ODIs)
Eoin Morgan - England
Eoin Morgan was named England ODI captain only months before the World Cup 2015. Despite the team’s group-stage elimination in that event, England Cricket administrators stuck with the Ireland-born player as their captain, and that decision has reaped rich rewards.
A lot of the credit for England’s newfound success should go to Morgan, who has brought about a culture change and has allowed his players to play an aggressive brand of cricket. It is under Morgan that England have climbed to be number-one ranked team in ODIs and head into the home World Cup as favourites.
- Overall Win% as captain: 64.9% (100 ODIs)
- Win% as captain until 2016: 52.1% (48 ODIs)
- Win% as captain since 2017: 75.5% (52 ODIs)
The 2019 event will be Mashrafe Mortaza’s second World Cup as Bangladesh captain. The pacer was Bangladesh captain when the team qualified for the Quarter-Final in the 2015 event.
Age, weak knees and other injuries aside, Mortaza is also an elected Member of Parliament, and has made it clear that the 2019 World Cup will be his last event. Will the 35-year old be able to ‘change perceptions’ and carry Bangladesh past the group stage?
- Win% as captain: 58.7% (77 ODIs)
Aaron Finch - Australia
Captaincy fell on Aaron Finch’s shoulders by default in the aftermath of the “Sandpapergate” that hit the Australian team early last year. After a turbulent start to his captaincy tenure, Finch and his Australian team are finally delivering the goods. After leading Australia to only two wins in his first 10 ODIs as captain, Finch has been able to reverse the team’s fortunes and heads into World Cup 2019 with the confidence and momentum of 8 consecutive wins behind him.
Finch will be the 10th player to captain Australia at the World Cup.
Will he be able to join the elite club of Australia’s World Cup winning captains, comprising Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke?
- Win% as captain: 55.6% (18 ODIs)
Sarfaraz Ahmed - Pakistan
The 2019 event will be Sarfraz Ahmed’s first World Cup as Pakistan captain. The diminutive wicket-keeper, who led Pakistan to the title in the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017, will be looking to give Pakistan their second 50-over World Cup.
Pakistan are winless in their last 11 ODIs, and have won only one of their last 14 ODIs. Will Sarfraz be able to motivate his players to halt the team’s losing streak and script something special?
- Win% as captain: 55.3% (40 ODIs)
Kane Williamson - New Zealand
Under Kane Williamson, New Zealand have played some incredible cricket in their backyard, but have often struggled overseas.
New Zealand have made the semi-final in 7 of the 11 editions and were runner-up in 2015. Can Kane Williamson, who will be a first-time World Cup captain, become New Zealand’s first-ever World Cup winning captain?
- Overall Win% as captain: 54.0% (65 ODIs)
- Win% as captain at home: 67.6% (35 ODIs)
- Win% as captain overseas: 37.9% (30 ODIs)
Jason Holder - West Indies
Jason Holder will be under immense pressure heading into the World Cup 2019 – purely because there is a legacy attached to the West Indies and the World Cup. Twice champions – in 1975 and 1979, the West Indies teams of recent times have been a pale shadow of the world-beating teams the region has fielded in the past.
The West Indies almost missed World Cup 2019 too; a win in a rain-affected match and an incorrect Umpiring error in the Qualifying tournament came to their rescue, and ensured qualification for the World Cup.
Holder – in his second World Cup as captain – has the opportunity to add to the region’s glorious history and to revive cricket in the Caribbean. Can he? Will he?
- Win% as captain: 31.4% (74 ODIs)
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