Wednesday 14 November 2012 

Comment - On Captains Who Can't Stop Scoring Runs

Comment - Captains Who Can't Stop Scoring Runs
Comment - Captains Who Can't Stop Scoring Runs
© REUTERS / Action Images
 

Since taking over the Test captaincy, Michael Clarke has hit an unbeaten triple-century, an unbeaten double-century and another double-century for good measure. His stunning form with the bat while leading the side sees his average jump from 50.84 in all matches to 66.36 as skipper.

Perhaps just as remarkably, this is hardly unusual. The great Sir Don Bradman averaged 101.50 in the 24 matches he led Australia - a fraction more than his career average and of the 10 current Test captains, only Graeme Smith's stats suffer for leading the side.

With the South African left-hander, the difference is marginal and it's worth remembering that he has captained the side for 95 of the 102 Tests he has played.

Alastair Cook is an extreme case. He has captained twice against Bangladesh which inflates his average while captain to 114 but we can expect that to decrease as he takes on India this winter. His predecessor Andrew Strauss captained exactly half of the Tests he played and his average in those matches (40.76) is only a touch less than his overall average of 40.91.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (42.82 > 38.45), Darren Sammy (23.48 > 22.20), Ross Taylor (47.29 > 42.6) have also taken on the mantle of captaincy and, so to speak, run further than when they were just in the side.

Although the sample size is small, Brendan Taylor (52.71 > 29.29) and Mushfiqur Rahim (40.71 > 29.01) show huge improvement although both have captained in just four Tests.

The winner, however, in terms of improving his performance while captain is Sri Lanka's Mahela Jayawardene. He averages an already impressive 50.43 from 133 matches but take out the matches where he wasn't captain and in 33 games as leader, it jumps to a stratospheric 64.13.

It shouldn't be a huge surprise as in the main, by the time players assume the role of captaincy, they are settled in the side, know their own game and the minimum to be expected is that they perform as well as they did previous to being given the job.

That rather ruthless expectation is a test that Sachin Tendulkar fails. He averages just over 55 in all Tests but during the 25 matches he led the side, his average dropped to 51. Whereas Smith is given leeway because he has captained for all but seven Tests, effectively establishing himself as a Test cricketer at the same tiem as leading the side, Tendulkar's drop, for a player of his calibre is notable.

A clearer picture might emerge when we consider what percentage of those matches have been won by the respective captains.

Unsurprisingly, Bradman tops the bill, winning 15 of the 24 matches he captained for a win ratio of 62.5%. Clarke and Jayawardene are next, with 56.3 and 51.5% respectively.

Incidentally, Tendulkar won just four matches as captain for a ratio of just 16% while Sammy has to date managed the same number for a percentage of 17.4 with Ross Taylor winning just 27.3% of the games he's taken charge of.

So, while taking over the captaincy - certainly for the current leaders - does seem to bring about an improvement in their batting, that improvement doesn't always translate to winning game for their team.

One factor in Clarke and Jayawardene's favour is that when they pass three figures, they tend to go on and big hundreds - both have registered a triple-century and multiple double-centuries and these are the innings that often win matches.

At the other end of the scale, England's Mike Brearley's average dropped fractionally (22.49 as opposed to 22.88) during his time as captain but he won 18 of 31 matches - 58 percent, which would put him above both Clarke and Jayawardene.

Can you think of any other examples of great captains whose form didn't necessarily improve during his time in charge or other players whose form improves dramatically while figuratively wearing the armband?

John Pennington

© Cricket World 2012

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