The Common Ingredient In Every World Cup Winning Team.......Part 2
We continue are look into the architects of World Cup winning teams
Ricky Ponting (Australia – 2003 & 2007)
If Steve Waugh brought the term ‘mental disintegration’ into the Australian cricket lexicon, then Ricky Ponting, his successor dialed it up even further. He brought his ‘ruthless aggression’ brand of batting to his leadership style as well, which saw Australia have its best years in the ODI arena and build a period of domination that culminated in back-to-back undefeated World Cup campaigns. Not a natural strategist, where Ponting excelled was at leading by example with the bat and in the field in an aggressive fashion. During his tenure he was also the team’s best batsman and fielder and the permanent attack mode he was on duly rubbed off on his teammates. Under his reign, Australia became the meanest and most intimidating team on the planet. The once in a lifetime talents of players like Adam Gilchrist, Mathew Hayden, Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Andrew Symonds played no small part in establishing his grand legacy. Along with Clive Lloyd (as shown above), he is the only captain to have won 2 World Cups thus far and probably the only two leaders to have won back-to-back titles. Ricky Ponting remains Australia’s greatest one-day captain ever.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (India – 2011)
India won their first world title under M.S. Dhoni’s leadership when they lifted the inaugural World T20 title in 2007. He then steadily built India into a limited overs powerhouse. By the time the 50 over World Cup returned to the sub-continent in 2011, The Men In Blue were the favourites to lift the title. Galvanized by their legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar’s last World Cup appearance and a ‘Player of the Tournament’ performance by Yuvraj Singh, India went on to claim their second World Cup crown, after a period of 28 years, with the captain himself delivering a Man of the Match performance in the final. Nicknamed ‘Captain Cool’ for his calmness under pressure, he more often than not made the right moves at the right time for his team. He led India to several more laurels during his tenure including a semi-final spot in the last edition of the world event. Arguably, M.S. Dhoni is India’s greatest ever One-Day captain.
Michael Clarke (Australia – 2015)
Perhaps the best strategist of all World Cup winning captains, Michael Clarke was able to forge, not the greatest Australian team by a mile, into a World Championship winning outfit by the time the last edition came around. His meticulous planning for each player of the opposition combined with his own team’s strengths saw The Men In Green and Gold win their fifth World title, and first on home soil. His genius ploy of having his strike bowler Mitchell Starc bowl an express yorker in the very first over of the final, accounted for New Zealand’s talismanic, explosive skipper Brendon McCullum sealing the summit clash in his team’s favour. In a lineage of great Australian One-Day captains, Michael Clarke remains its craftiest operator.
These leaders were undisputedly the driving forces behind their teams’ triumphs and without them at the helm, things could have turned out very differently for them and their teams.
We now turn our gaze to the skippers of the last four teams still left standing at this year’s edition and what they bring to their respective teams:
Eoin Morgan (England)
The man who was at the head of the ship when England were unceremoniously dumped out of the last World Cup, Eoin Morgan realized at that moment that the team had to change its approach to the One-Day format if they were ever to be successful. Together with former England captain and Director of Cricket Andrew Strauss, he drew up a plan that would change the course of The Three Lions fortunes and transform them into the world’s foremost team in the format. He lined the batting order up with destructive batsmen who were complemented by wicket taking bowlers. The captain also changed England’s mindset from a defensive one into an all-out attack mode that saw them eventually climb the top of the One-Day rankings and be deemed the favourites at this year’s event. The Irishman’s mental toughness has been reflected in his side’s willingness to battle to the very end and he could very well be the man to finally end England’s drought at cricket’s premier event.
Virat Kohli (India)
India’s inspirational leader is the man behind The Men In Blue’s transformation from a talented side into one of the fittest teams in World Cricket. Traditionally not always the most athletically gifted, Kohli’s emphasis on fitness changed the attitude of the Indians towards it and showed them the way how physical prowess could improve their performances and results on the cricket field. Not the most tactical of captains, where Virat Kohli excels is in his ability to inspire his team with his attacking bend of mind, belief in one’s ability and his hunger and drive to be the best. The swagger, passion, confidence and aggression that Team India displays whenever they take the field is unmistakably reflective of their charismatic leader. His vision of making India the greatest force in the global game and his philosophy that the team always comes first has been completely and totally embraced by his men. Under his leadership, The Men In Blue have become the most fun-loving yet intense side ever to come out of the sub-continent. King Kohli is all about legacy, both for himself and his team and he could very well seal them in immortality at the end of this tournament, as Three Time World Champions!
Aaron Finch (Australia)
The ongoing tournament has seen Australia’s captain Aaron Finch’s metamorphosis from an unsure leader into a true general of his side. The fallout from ‘sandpapergate’ and the eventual sacking of subsequent captain Tim Paine saw Finch, the Aussie T20 captain being elevated to the One-Day captaincy as well. A less than impressive start to his captaincy and a sudden dip in batting form saw him lose home ODI series’ to South Africa and then India, and along with that his confidence. However series wins against India and Pakistan just before the World Cup saw the Aussie captain regain his form and lead his team to an unbeaten streak of 9 wins on the trot. The quadrennial event has seen the leader of The Canary Yellow brigade excel with the bat, while being innovative in the field. His willingness to draw on the experiences of former players and captains has seen him blossom into an astute leader. After a slow start, the leadership unit of Head coach Justin Langer, Assistant coach Ricky Ponting and skipper Aaron Finch seem to have planned Australia’s assault on The World Cup convincingly, with Finch looking to pilot the defending champions to Title No. 6.
Kane Williamson (New Zealand)
Perhaps the shrewdest of the four captains left, Kane Williamson is also the best strategist among them. His ability to marshal his limited resources to get them to the semi-final is itself an achievement. His innovative field placements and bowling changes have been at the forefront of many Black Caps’ victories. Who can forget his leg gully placement of Martin Guptill that resulted in a stunning catch to dismiss Aussie Steve Smith in their encounter at the ongoing event? Knowing his team’s limitations and working within them while improvising is what has made him one of the standout leaders of his generation. A fine batsman himself, his ability to stay calm and confident in the heat of battle has been reflected in his team displaying those same traits. The knockout rounds will see the Kiwi skipper at his strategic best as he plots the downfall of more formidable opponents.
The value these undisputed leaders bring to their teams is immeasurable and on the night of July 14th, one of them will accede to the pantheons of the greats and along with their team, be crowned emperors of the world!