Stepping aside for the team's 'best interests'

Captains opting out of playing XI has become common in T20s

Stepping aside for the team's 'best interests'

What is the unique factor that links three individuals as diverse as Kumar Sangakkara, Adam Glichrist and Ricky Ponting?

One might be tempted to jump up and say they all led their respective national sides, besides captaining teams in the Indian Premier League. But unique? Hardly. One distinguishing fact, the one they certainly will not be proud of, that binds the three is that they were all forced to opt out of the playing 11 despite being at the helm of their team’s affairs.

As mindboggling as their performances are in international cricket, the trio had to swallow their ego and sit out in the ‘best interests’ of their respective IPL teams. Unlike in Davis Cup where each country would have a non-playing captain for what is necessarily a managerial role, there is no such concept in cricket. Well, as yet, that is. It is even incomprehensible to have a player as captain whose place isn’t guaranteed in a Test or an ODI 11. But T20, cricket’s youngest and shortest format, may be breeding such types.

Sangakkara set the trend during IPL 5 when he voluntarily relinquished his place in the side following his poor form while he was leading the now-defunct Deccan Chargers in 2012. The Lankan repeated his act last season as well, facilitating Aussie all-rounder Cameron White’s elevation as the skipper of Sunrisers Hyderabad.   

Glichrist, leading Kings XI Punjab in the last IPL season, handed over the captaincy to David Hussey after a prolonged slump in form – both behind and in front of the wicket. The most unfortunate was Ricky Ponting, who was bought amidst much fanfare by the Mumbai Indians. Named the skipper of the side, Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar walking out to open the innings was a sight to behold. Less than half a dozen games into the season, their grand designs had come crashing down.

 Ponting couldn’t recreate his old magic and had to make way for Rohit Sharma as skipper.

For all its intensity and high quality stuff in IPL, where the franchise owners’ patience lasts shorter than the duration of the format, the players may not mind such slights but how would a captain of a national side feel if he is asked to excuse himself because of lack of form? Even Angelo Mathews had to go through such an experience when he was the captain of another defunct team, Pune Warriors. And the Sri Lankan all-rounder would have understood the ‘humiliation’ his country’s T20 captain Dinesh Chandimal had to suffer when he was asked to make himself unavailable for the World T20 semifinal against West Indies on Thursday.

Chandimal, who has just 12 runs from three matches in the event, was suspended for the final group game against New Zealand due to poor over rate and Sri Lanka didn’t want to change the winning combination for the semifinal. “It was a collective decision – the selectors, management and Dinesh Chandimal,” said Mathews when asked whose decision was it to exclude the regular captain. “We have to do what is best for the team all the time, regardless of who you are. I think he opted out because he wanted the best XI on the park. So I think it was a great and brave decision,” he remarked.

The one such major instance of a skipper sitting out of an international occurred way back in 1975 when England captain Mike Dennis decided, of his own volition, to skip the fourth Ashes Test in Sydney due to poor form. Unlike other team sports, where captains are at best ceremonial figure heads, cricket places great importance on them. The Chandimal-like incident, however, definitely undermines the skipper’s primacy.

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