Imran Khan, Arjuna Ranatunga, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting have all led from the front in guiding their team to World Cup glory © Getty Images
Imran Khan, Arjuna Ranatunga, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting have all led from the front in guiding their team to World Cup glory © Getty Images


By Vinay Anand


In the first of the two-part series on Tuesday, we examined the roles played by captains in the World Cups between 1975 and 1987. The second and concluding part will look into the roles played by captains from the 1992 World Cup to the 2007 World Cup.


Imran Khan (1992)


If ever a World Cup was won single handedly, it had to be the 1992 World Cup won by Pakistan. Despite, individual brilliances from Inzamam-ul-Haq and Wasim Akram, Imran Khan’s inspirational leadership and the ability to get the best out of his team through intelligence, charisma and toughness was decisive.


Imran was fearless. He promoted himself up the order at No 3 in the final and scored an invaluable 72 – the highest score from either in the final. Pakistan lost Waqar Younis – even before leaving their country due to a stress fracture. They won only one of their first five matches and looked down in the dumps. But Imran was able to lift the side, which won five games in a row to lift the World Cup.


Imran Khan in the 1992 World Cup – Runs: 185; Wickets: 7


Arjuna Ranatunga (1996)


Just when you thought Imran was as good as it gets when it came to captaincy, Arjuna Ranatunga came along. He was great tactician, supreme finisher and innovation ran in his veins.


In many ways, Arjuna set the trend for things to come as he chanced aggression at both ends with Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana at the top of the order. He showed great belief in his players and backed them up fully. He assured Jayasuriya his place even if he failed in his new role as opener. He also backed Muttiah Muralitharan on trying occasions, bringing out the best of the lanky off spinner.


Arjuna played quite a few cameos at the fag end of an innings, providing the perfect impetus that Lanka needed. He was also pretty useful with the ball as he chipped him with a few overs doing perfectly well for the 5th bowler’s role along with Aravinda de Silva.


He was very Australian in some ways. He was known to get under the skin of other cricketers. He famously calling Shane Warne “ordinary and mediocre”, a day before the final of the ’96 World Cup.


Arjuna Rantaunga in the 1996 World Cup – Runs: 241; Wickets: 2


Steve Waugh (1999)


He was a captain who believed in and backed the abilities of his players. Always open to new ideas, Waugh himself played a crucial hand in the World Cup after having doubts raised over his position in the One-Day team.


Never to wilt under pressure, he allowed Damien Fleming to go with his plan of changing to over the wicket in that crucial last over of the semi-final between Australia and South Africa.


He was in prime form during the tournament and played a blinder in one of the Super Six matches against South Africa – a blistering 100 that helped Australia through after an early glitch. He scored close to 400 runs that tournament at a phenomenal average of 79.90.


He showed great faith in Shane Warne who just returned from a shoulder injury and was out of sorts in earlier stages of the tournament.


After a disappointing performance against Scotland, New Zealand and Pakistan, Waugh managed to pick his troops and inspire them to an undefeated run to become the second Australian captain to lift the trophy.


Steve Waugh in the 1999 World Cup –  Runs: 398; Wickets: 3


Ricky Ponting (2003)


Only a year into captaincy back then, Ponting suffered a huge loss even before the tournament got away as his strike bowler when Warne was tested positive for banned substances and had to return to Australia. To add to this, Darren Lehmann and Michael Bevan were suffering from injuries and Andrew Symonds had not yet established his mark on the international arena. Jimmy Maher too was pronounced as a weakness.


Ponting essentially won the respect of his players through his personal play – as a batsman and a fielder. He was in the peak of his career back and scored over 400 runs to be the backbone of the Australian batting.


His 140 in the World Cup final against India won them the match in the first 50 overs itself. His hitting demoralized the Indians. At the end of it all, Ponting still stood tall with the World Cup in his hands. Andrew Symonds finally came good, Brad Hogg did a fabulous job as replacement spinner, Glenn McGrath was steady as ever and the fresh burst of Brett Lee every now on then helped provide crucial breakthroughs.


Ricky Ponting in the 2003 World Cup – Runs: 415


Ricky Ponting (2007)


Ponting returned to defend his World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007. Australia were out and out favourites coming into the World Cup, despite losses to England, New Zealand and the fact that Brett Lee had been ruled out only weeks before the tournament started. Nevertheless, the Aussies still boasted of a strong line-up with Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and McGrath all in the twilight of their career.


Ponting’s greatest challenge was to avoid complacency with such a strong unit. He led from the front yet again, amassing over 500 runs in the tournament.


He became only the second captain in World Cup history to lift the World Cup twice.


Ricky Ponting in the 2007 World Cup – Runs: 539


Look at the form of the captains in the ongoing World Cup and you could, possibly, get an idea as to which team is likely to lift the 2011 World Cup.


For starters, Ponting and Smith look woefully out of form, so if history is any indicator to go by, Australia and South Africa are unlikely to emerge champions. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Darren Sammy and Daniel Vettori have not been that great either. That leaves us with Andrew Strauss, Kumar Sangakkara and Shahid Afridi – all of whom have been in terrific form.


Will England, Sri Lanka or Pakistan do it? Or will there be a reversal of trends this time. Perhaps, Ponting would rise in the big matches ahead to lift the World Cup – yet again.


(Vinay Anand, 17, has an uncanny eye for detail. He revers cricket – looking beyond the glamour into the heart of the game where true passion, perseverance and grit meet. To him, there is no greater joy than coming closer to the sport while exploring its intricacies through his writing and treading ahead to establish himself as a writer and presenter)