Dubai: The ongoing 10th edition of the Indian Premier League is bound to throw up the looking-back moments for avid followers of the league throughout the world. Which batsman or bowler created the maximum impact? Or who was the best skipper of them all?

Vying for the best captain’s mantle will be Kolkata Knight Riders’ skipper Gautam Gambhir and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, synonymous with Chennai Super Kings till their ban last year. Gambhir moulded his team into one of the most consistent outfits and led it to two titles (2012, 2014), at par with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who too led Chennai Super Kings to two title triumphs in 2010 and 2011.

Will Gambhir edge ahead as the best captain in the IPL by the end of this edition? Rohit Sharma too led Mumbai Indians to two IPL title wins but Gambhir and Dhoni are the only captains who have led in more than 100 IPL matches.

To understand the enormity of Gambhir’s achievement, one must track the progress of the Kolkata team under Gambhir since he took over in 2011. This squad had a woeful time during the first four editions of the IPL, two of them under the captaincy of the iconic Sourav Ganguly. Incidentally, Gambhir was not even considered worthy to be an IPL captain in the inaugural edition of the IPL as he was picked by Delhi Daredevils to play under Virender Sehwag’s captaincy. Gambhir’s move to Kolkata also marked the rise of the team. He virtually revamped the team, sharing his ideas with the team management.

In 2012, the Knight Riders gelled well, conquering all on their way. They registered a record 10 wins with just five loses and defeated the Dhoni-led Chennai team in the final for their first title triumph. Gambhir could not carry the winning momentum the next year but he again guided the team to victory in 2014 — when they won nine matches on the trot.

It was that year that the legendary pacer and former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram, who was the Kolkata team’s mentor called Gambhir “the best captain of IPL.”

Ganguly too praised Gambhir in 2012, saying: “Gambhir is the best captain of the IPL. I really liked the way he supported his players.”

Dhoni had a well-set team from the start whereas Gambhir 
had to nurture youngsters to become matchwinners. It is also a known fact that Dhoni had the backing of the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s strongman N. Srinivasan, the owner of CSK and India Cements, and hence everything was relatively easier. The aura of being the Indian team captain too helped Dhoni immensely. Chennai had the advantage of having a set of stars like Ravichandran Ashwin, Murali Vijay and Ravindra Jadeja, all of whom performed consistently. Gambhir, on the other hand, had to experiment with many new faces. He had to do all that without the acceptance of the home crowd as well after Ganguly was overlooked by the Kolkata team owners in the auction.

Dhoni was often criticised during the IPL matches of being a defensive captain and not wanting to experiment with the playing eleven whereas Gambhir not only made changes to his team to get the best out of players but also set aggressive field placings. Incidentally, Dhoni even went on to once sportingly praise Gambhir, urging his players not to give up and push on even if the game appeared to be in Gambhir’s pocket.

Unlike Dhoni, Gambhir had to put up with some of his so called star players failing regularly, like Yusuf Pathan and Umesh Yadav. Even in the Champions League, Gambhir led in 18 matches and won 10 of them. Last year, when Gambhir was asked about his comeback to the Indian team, he replied that he was more focused on helping Kolkata in the IPL than making a comeback into the Indian team. When asked about the decision to retain some players despite their not-so-impressive performances, he said: “I always believe in giving a lot of security to players. When you pick someone, you pick with a lot of trust. We don’t chop and change. If someone does not perform for one year we don’t send him back into the auction or release him. We, I think, are the only franchise that does not release a lot of players. We have allowed people to make mistakes. I think maybe that differentiates us from others.”

A tale of two captains (In IPL)

P W L NR %

MS Dhoni 143 83 59 1 58.04 2008-2016

G. Gambhir 111 64 47 0 57.66 2009-2017

Note: They are the only captains who have led in over 100 IPL games