Friday, 23 November 2012

Good Year For The Captain

I awoke Saturday morning to the news that Graham Smith, the slayer of England captains, was sitting overnight on 111* (a total I am convinced he arrived at just to annoy my sister Nicky, who has a loathing for the number), the key innings in total of 217/2 for South Africa in reply to Australia's 550 all out.  This large Aussie total owned much to their captain Michael Clarke, who when finally dismissed in this match had made  230, giving him his second double century of the series, and an astonishing FOURTH for the year (including a 329*).

Armed with this knowledge, I set about looking at how Test captains have fared with the bat in 2012, in comparison to how fruitful a year 2011 had been for those that lead their teams.  The results were very encouraging.

There have been 15 Test centuries by skippers in 2012, Clarke leading the way with 4 of them (all at least doubles, remember), followed by his South African counterpart Smith who has three.  Spread over the captaincy reigns of both Andrew Strauss and the current incumbent Alastair Cook, England captains have raised the bat and removed the lid three times, while New Zealands Ross Taylor and Mahela Jayawardene of Sri Lanka both have two hundreds this year.  Darren Sammy, perhaps the most maligned of all the captains when it comes to his place, led a hearty fightback for his side in England in 2012 with a maiden test hundred coming at Trent Bridge.

Of the test playing nations, the only sides whose captains failed to notch a century were Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.  Misbah-ul-Haq captained five matches for Pakistan with a top score of 84, while Mohammad Hafeez took the reigns once, with his best effort being 20.  MS Dhoni (6 matches) and Virender Sehwag (1) mustered four 50s between them, while Brendan Taylor (top score 9) and Mushfiqur Rahim (43) did not even pass 50 in their combined 5 innings.  The other man to lead a side in a test in 2012 was Tilakaratne Dilshan for Sri Lanka, who achieved a top score of 78.

Both Cook and Clarke average over 100 as captain, with Cook's achievement bettered by Clarke who has attained his average through 12 innings compared to Cook's two.  Clarke is, unsurprisingly, the leading run scorer also with 1271 runs through the year.  Taylor is at the bottom of this list, averaging a mere 5.5 runs.

So how does this compare with 2011? Well, there were only 13 captains of Test sides in 2011, and the results are different in many ways.  Misbah is the leading run scorer with 765 runs and one century, but the leader in terms of number on tons is the same as in 2012.  Yes, its Michael Clarke.  Though "only" managing 618 runs at an average of 38.62, he did score three Test centuries.  The owner of the best average in 2011 was, in a reversal of 2012, Brendan Taylor of Zimbabwe, with his 358 runs coming at a lick of 71.60 (2 hundreds).  The nations without a captain reaching three figures in 2011 are West Indies (Sammy, 325 runs @ 18.05) New Zealand (Ross Taylor, 228 @ 38) Bangladesh (Al Hasan and Rahim contributing a top score of 69 between them) and interestingly, the side that ended the year ranked number one in the world, England (Andrew Strauss 316 runs @ 28.72)

It would seem to be a good time to lead your side in Test cricket, if you enjoy batting.  The only team over these two years without a century from a captain are Bangladesh, and this is hardly the only problem this team has at present.  I will be intrigued to sit here a year from now and see how kind 2013 was to the men who captain at the highest level of cricket, especially with one completed Ashes series and another around the corner.

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