Kolkata: Who is the greatest Test captain of the 21st century? Steve Waugh, whose modern ‘Invincibles’ were the No.1 ranked team for 46 of the 48 weeks that he was in charge, has been nominated in a poll conducted by Star Sports.
The choice was narrowed down to four - Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Graeme Smith and Virat Kohli - with votes from a jury comprising of the broadcasters’ panel for the World Test Championship final, former players and fans. Waugh pipped Smith, the South African captain who built his team from scratch after being hoisted in the role as a 22-year-old and took them to the top spot, finished in second spot. Ponting and Kohli finished third and fourth, respectively.
The announcement was made at the lunch break of fifth day’s play at Southampton, during which the TV pundits went public with this choices. Smith appeared to be quite a popular choice in context of his achievement when V.V.S. Laxman, the Indian batting legend, said: ‘‘My vote would go to Smith for the way he built the team. The advantage with both Waugh and Ponting were they knew they were being groomed to take over from great leaders while the team had the likes of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie. Smith, on the other hand, was thrust the leadership at such a young age and just had a Shaun Pollock.’’
Sanjay Bangar, the former Indian Test cricketer and India’s batting coach, went for Waugh while Naser Hussain, former England captain, rooted for Smith from lifting South African cricket from the abyss in the post Hansie Cronje era. Sunil Gavaskar, former Indian captain, eventually made the announcement.
The choice is irrefutable in terms of success-rate, but the shortlist can raise enough storm in the tea cup. What about the likes of Sourav Ganguly, who took charge at a time when Indian cricket was struggling for credibility and is credited with infusing the spirit to look the opponent in the eye? It certainly calls for a healthy the debate.