BENGALURU: When Jasprit Bumrah took the field as a captain, in the absence of Rohit Sharma, for the rescheduled fifth Test against England at Edgbaston, he became the first pacer to captain India in a Test match in 35 years. Before him, Kapil Dev had captained India in 34 Tests in the 1980s.
Recently, Pat Cummins had also become the second pacer to captain Australia and he’s been doing pretty well. In fact, Ray Lindwall, the great Australian fast bowler in the 1950s had captained Australia in just one Test. Out of 8 Test matches in which Cummins has captained, Australia have won 5 and three were drawn. More importantly, Cummins’ own performance as a captain has been spectacular as he has rang up 34 wickets at an average of just 19.82.
Though Bumrah is acting just as a stand-in skipper the selectors have sent a message that the 28-year-old is being groomed as the future leader as the regular skipper Rohit is already 35. If we look at some of the most successful captains in the annals of Test cricket – Graeme Smith, Clive Llyod, Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh, Allan Border, Virat Kohli, to name a few – almost all of them have been batsmen.
Very few bowlers – especially pacers – have managed to earn their spurs as Test captains. Among Indian cricketers, Kapil is the only notable pacer who captained India. Though he won only 4 Tests out of 34, his performance as a bowler during his stint was creditable.
The all-rounder snagged 111 wickets at an average of 26.35 – which is significantly better than his overall bowling average – and was often the lone wolf of the bowling pack. Interestingly, he holds the record of best bowling figures in an innings by a Test captain. In 1983, he cut a swathe through the mighty West Indies’ batting line-up and returned with figures of 9 for 83 at Ahmedabad.
Another Asian pacer who attained glory as a Test slipper was Kapil’s arch-rival in the 1980s – Pakistan’s Imran Khan. The charismatic all-rounder captained his country in 48 Tests and won 14. No pacer has won more Tests than Imran as the skipper of his side.
Even more impressively, Imran excelled tremendously as a bowler when he was leading the side. In 48 Tests as a skipper, he snapped up 187 wickets at an average of 20.26. In the annals of Test cricket, no bowler – leave alone a pacer – has raked in more wickets than him as a captain. Clearly, Imran remains the first among equals when we talk about pacers who have led their sides.
Another fascinating aspect of the captaincy tenures of both Imran and Kapil is the fact that the captaincy phenomenally elevated their individual performances. They both relished the captaincy and it didn’t weigh them down. This demolishes the myth that fast bowlers already have an immense workload and can’t take up more responsibility.
Other notable pacers who became successful captains are Wasim Akram (Pakistan), Shaun Pollock (South Africa), Courtney Walsh (West Indies), Bob Willis (England), Heath Streak (Zimbabwe) and Jason Holder (West Indies).