With recent history favouring Indian captains in the IPL, Kings XI Punjab captain George Bailey (above) will have his task cut out © Getty Images
The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 is set to feature three overseas captains. Shiamak Unwalla discusses the merits and demerits of having a foreigner as captain of an IPL side.
The inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) will always be remembered as the one that started it all. What stood out was Shane Warne’s inspirational leadership that masterminded a miraculous victory for the underdogs Rajasthan Royals. A year later, it was his Australian teammate, Adam Gilchrist, who marshalled the Deccan Chargers brilliantly and took them to the title. In the first two seasons, overseas captains had well and truly altered the course of the tournament with their unique style bringing together players from all parts of the globe.
By then, some people were concerned — Indians had not made a huge impact in their own league. After all, Shaun Marsh finished the 2008 season as the leading run-scorer, while Matthew Hayden won the Orange Cap the following year. In the four seasons since then, the Indians have roared back with MS Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma winning titles for their sides. The Indians have found their mojo and are showing their skills in all departments.
Since the 2009 edition, the overseas captains have faced a tough time. Adam Gilchrist, Daniel Vettori, Ricky Pointing, and Kumar Sangakkara, captains of their respective sides, actually dropped themselves because of poor form. They were replaced by their Indian teammates, of which only Rohit Sharma was successful.
Fast forward to 2014. Of the eight surviving teams, five are led by Indian captains. The three foreign captains are Kevin Pietersen, Shane Watson, and George Bailey. Pietersen, one of the most destructive players in the modern game, was recently dumped from the England side. Naming Pietersen may be a gamble, considering his mercurial temperament, but Delhi are looking beyond that and want him to lead their side with his aggressive and fearless character. Watson’s stature in the Rajasthan Royals (RR) set-up is well known. Since being named Man of the Series in the inaugural IPL, he has been one of their most consistent performers, and walks into the playing XI.
Now, let us look at Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), one of the strongest sides on paper heading into this season. As is well known, each IPL team can play a total of four overseas players. Some of the foreign players KXIP have are David Miller, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Beuran Hendricks, Thisara Perera, and George Bailey.
Miller scored an unbeaten hundred against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) last year to steal an unbelievable victory for his side. Marsh, who was the orange cap holder of the inaugural edition of the IPL, has been one of their most consistent batsmen since. Johnson’s resurgence started with the 2013 edition of the IPL.
Since then, his exploits against England and South Africa have been well documented. Glenn Maxwell, who spent most of last season sitting on the benches of the Mumbai Indians (MI) team, recently hit 74 off 33 balls against a Pakistani attack that included Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez, three of the most effective bowlers in T20 cricket. And then there’s the captain, George Bailey, who has played all of four games in the IPL with a top score of 30 and a strike rate of 95.45. Apart from the five mentioned, Beuran Hendricks and Thisara Perera too are in the fray. With Bailey being captain, it leaves only three more spots open for a host of international stars.
Punjab presents a classic case of why fielding a foreign captain is a risk. Your options are cut out with one slot filled up. If the captain has a tough time, he has to walk out and pass the arm-band to another captain, which may or may not work. With a team being allowed only four foreigners, from numerous international stars, they have to have their best men in the middle. In such a scenario, even if a captain is continuously failing and there is another international player on the sidelines, his selection may not be possible.
To sum up, Punjab may have taken a bit of a risk by appointing Bailey as a captain. Delhi and Rajasthan have appointed men who have been stars for them and are not at such a big risk. Punjab would hope Bailey bounces back after a tough ICC World T20 2014.
(Shiamak Unwalla is a correspondent with Cricket Country. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla).