Sourav Planned, Dhoni Built, Kohli Modernised: Tale of 3 Captains

These three captains changed Indian cricket with their own style and on their own terms.

7 min read
From Left: Sourav Ganguly, MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli

The 1983 World Cup is considered the biggest turning point in Indian cricket history. The '83 world cup win encouraged India to take cricket seriously. And a lot of credit for that would go to captain Kapil Dev.

But the man responsible for revolutionising Indian cricket is Sourav Ganguly. He single-handedly showed the world that Indians are not here just to compete, but to dominate.

Ganguly did what no other captain could do before him. He went overseas and won test matches. Not once or twice, but many times. He showed that the Indian team was more than just a home track bully.


Just when people started doubting that anyone can be as good as Ganguly, in came a Ranchi boy who took the world by storm with his captaincy skills. MS Dhoni, who was later named as ‘Captain Cool’ because of his temperament, achieved everything a captain can achieve in International cricket.

Under Dhoni’s captaincy, a young boy from Delhi started making his name in International cricket. And when Dhoni had enough of captaincy, Virat Kohli was declared his successor. He took over the captaincy from Dhoni in 2015 for the first time and never looked back.

Let’s see how these three captains have impacted the growth of Indian cricket in the last two decades.

Sourav Ganguly

Sourav Planned, Dhoni Built, Kohli Modernised: Tale of 3 Captains
(Photo: Twitter)


Ganguly was made the captain at the very onset of the millennium, when Indian cricket was in doldrums, courtesy the match-fixing scandal.

Sachin Tendulkar had relinquished captaincy recently due to health reasons and Ganguly in turn was made the captain of the team.



It was the beginning of a plan to bring Indian cricket on the world map as a serious competitor who can beat any team in their own backyard. Ganguly made some good decisions and some bad decisions, but his motive was always the same.

The ‘God of Off-Side' changed the mode of Indian cricket from defensive to attacking. He was always ready to fight back. He was never a ‘stand back and listen’ type.

A psychological edge over your opponent can be a huge factor in Test cricket. There were times when the Australian team used to dominate India because of constant sledging and mind games.

Ganguly started the trend of giving back, be it through words or performances.

He is the one to bring out the ‘psychological’ aspect of cricket in the Indian team. This art which made Australian cricket ruthless in those times, was introduced to Indian players because Ganguly took the first step.

He led a team full of superstars. Captaining players like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman could have been a difficult task, but he did it with such ease.

Ganguly as a Captain

  • In 2001-2002 Eden Test in Kolkata, under the leadership of Ganguly India broke Australia’s unbeaten Test match record.

  • Ganguly’s winning percentage in ODI was 51.07 percent.

  • Ganguly’s winning percentage in Test was 42.06 percent.

  • He won Ram Mohan Roy award in 2004 for his outstanding leadership skill as captain.


Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Sourav Planned, Dhoni Built, Kohli Modernised: Tale of 3 Captains
(Photo: The Quint)


MS Dhoni first took over the T20 format when he was named the captain of the Indian squad for the inaugural ICC World T20. He led the Indian team to victory in the tournament after defeating arch-rivals Pakistan in the finals.

He then went on to become the full time ODI and Test captain for India in 2007 and 2008 respectively.


MS Dhoni took over from where Ganguly left. He executed what Ganguly planned. But he did it on his terms. While many say that the way Dhoni handled a few legends was wrong, the fact remains that he did bring glory to the nation.

He won everything a captain can win in International cricket. A World Cup, World T20, Champions Trophy and Asia Cup. He even won the IPL trophy thrice along with two Champions League T20 titles in 2009 and 2014.

Dhoni took a bold step to bring in youngsters and keep the biggies like Sehwag, Laxman and Sachin out of the playing XI.

He started the ‘young team India’ campaign.

He considered fielding a crucial aspect of the game and wanted young players to stop those 20-25 extra runs and take good catches. This plan created a lot of differences between him and some players but he never shied away from taking bold decisions.

He always remained calm during pressure situations and never showed it if it ever affected him.


Staying Away From Banter

One other thing he was famous for was not getting into any banter. But many teams took advantage of this. They used to sledge the Indian players and often get away with it. Some Indian players tried to give it back, but Dhoni used to stop them and tell them to focus on their game.

Many people also blame Dhoni for ending many careers before time. There is a certain notion that he ended Sehwag, Laxman, Gambhir and Yuvraj’s career. While some of these players deny these rumours, there are some who indirectly do point at Dhoni.

But the fact remains that he is the most successful captain in Indian cricket history. He built what Ganguly wanted. He brought the Indian team into the record books.

MS Dhoni as a Captain

  • MS Dhoni is the only Indian captain to lead India to three ICC trophies – World T20 2007, World Cup 2011 and Champions Trophy 2013.

  • Under MS Dhoni, India maintained the No 1 position in Test rankings for 18 months.

  • Dhoni is the third captain to have won 100 matches after Ricky Ponting and Allan Border.

  • Dhoni as captain has won 3 IPL trophies in the year 2010, 2011 and 2018.

  • Dhoni’s winning percentage in ODI was 59.57 per cent.

  • Dhoni’s winning percentage in Test was 45.00 percent.


Virat Kohli

Sourav Planned, Dhoni Built, Kohli Modernised: Tale of 3 Captains
(Photo: PTI)


In the first Test against Australia in Adelaide in 2014, Dhoni sat out due to an injury and Kohli took over the reins for the first time. Kohli scored 115 in the first innings followed by a spectacular 141 in the second innings. He became the fourth Indian to score a hundred on Test captaincy debut.

Kohli took over limited-overs captaincy from Dhoni in January 2017. Since then he has led India to a Champions Trophy final in 2017 and a World Cup semifinal in 2019.


Though Kohli has not yet won any trophies as captain we can’t say that he has failed. Carrying forward Dhoni’s legacy would have been a difficult task for anyone. Yes, it’s pretty clear that Dhoni was a better captain than Kohli in the limited-over format but when it comes to Test cricket, no one surpasses Kohli.

Virat Kohli is India’s most successful Test captain. He did what no other Test captain could do before him. He defeated Australia in their own backyard in a four-match Test series by 2-1 in 2018-19.

Virat has always said that he believes in winning a test match, and not settling for a draw. He loves to have a full pace attack. Under his captaincy, India has been able to make a match-winning pace attack with Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Sami, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav.

Why We Needed a Kohli After Dhoni

Kohli is poles apart from MS Dhoni. Where MS Dhoni used to keep his players away from any banter, Kohli makes sure that he leads them into each one. He is much more like Sourav Ganguly in that respect.


For years, Australia were leading the banter game in world cricket with no challengers. But then came a young Delhi boy, who not only gave them back but defeated them in their own game.

The thing that makes him different from other captains is that he thrives under pressure. You sledge him and he’ll perform even better. His impact is such that before an India-Australia series in 2017, former Australian seamer Jason Gillispie warned the Australian team saying, “Do not sledge Virat Kohli”.

Sourav and Dhoni’s way of captaincy was no doubt successful but a bit old school too. Kohli modernised what Dhoni built. He brought a fitness culture into the team. He made sure that all the 15 players in the squad are athletic.

This initiative of Virat went on to become a huge success. Even the Indian domestic structure developed a fitness culture in their teams. Players from all over the world have time and again appreciated Virat for bringing in this new culture into cricket.

Virat still has a long way to go as a captain and he would be hoping to add some or all the ICC trophies into his cabinet.

No Easy Task

Captaining an Indian team will never be an easy task. An Indian captain has to handle so much of media and public pressure. But these three captains have done a splendid job.

While Sourav Ganguly dared to dream, MS Dhoni built an empire which now Virat Kohli is taking forward into the modern world.

(With Inputs from Sportzwiki and Wikipedia)

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