Success in the game of Test cricket goes beyond that of bat, ball, and into a team's capability in balancing those. In ways, the bat carrying, helmet, and guard wearing batsmen taken on the verisimilitude of knights in a war – charging for victory. Interestingly, batsmen make for the most successful captains in cricket history. Batsmen-captains enjoy longer tenures too.
According to an article published in The Economist recently, captains are the showrunners in a game of cricket – deeming the position more pivotal than even the team's coach. The article titled, "Why are cricket's best captains batsmen?" states that it is the captains who decide the team's strategy. Of the ten most successful captains, by the percentage of games won, nine are batsmen. Steve Waugh, another Australian, tops the list with 72%, ahead of his compatriots Ricky Ponting and Don Bradman. The one exception is Waqar Younis, a fierce fast-bowler who led Pakistan with a win rate of 58%. All-rounders have tended to fare worse. Under Garry Sobers, considered one of the game's greatest, the West Indies won less than a quarter of their Tests.
The phenomenon of preferring batsman captains is also evident in Bangladesh. Mashrafe Mortaza is regarded as the finest captain in the history of Bangladesh cricket although he has led the side only once in Tests. And interestingly, he is the only bowler-captain to have skippered Bangladesh in Tests. Mushfiqur Rahim, predominantly a wicketkeeper-batsman, has captained Bangladesh in 34 Tests, the most by anyone, and the Tigers have won seven of them. That means he has a win percentage of 20.58% as captain.
The only player to have led Bangladesh in more than 15 matches except Mushfiqur is Habibul Bashar (18 matches) who was a batsman. Bangladesh won their first Test match when he was the captain and it remained the only Test win under him. His win percentage is only 5.55%. Four out of nine other players who led Bangladesh in Tests are all-rounders. Three are batsmen, one is a wicketkeeper and Mortaza is the only bowler.
Few countries have dominated a sport the way Australia has cricket. The national team has won the most Test matches (the traditional five-day format of the game), Ashes series (against its arch-rivals England) and World Cups. In almost all of these conquests the Baggy Greens—as the team is known, for the colour of their caps—has been led by a batsman.
When Pat Cummins, a fast bowler, was appointed captain for the latest Ashes series, which began on 08 December, many people were surprised. This was the first time in 65 years a specialist bowler has led the Australian Test team. History was created. Of the 116 skippers since 1880 to have led their teams in more than 15 Tests, only 14 have been bowlers. Another 17 have been "all-rounders", who bat and bowl.
Of the 20 longest-serving skippers, only one was not a specialist batsman: India's Mahendra Singh Dhoni, a wicketkeeper who was also no slouch with the bat. Even in the shorter formats of the game, batsmen dominate in the role.
However, the number of matches won under a captain doesn't just reflect his own leadership, but also the quality of his team. No amount of tactical nous can help a captain lead a team of weak players against much stronger opponents. But sometimes skill as a leader can compensate for deficiencies as a player.
According to The Economist report, one study that adjusted for team quality found that Waugh was indeed the best captain among those leading games between 1877 and 2010, but Graeme Smith, who led South Africa in the 2000s, was second-best, though he won less than half his Tests in the period covered. Mike Brearley, who led England in the late 1970s and early 1980s, had a mediocre batting record but still enjoyed a win rate of 60% (and three victorious Ashes series).
There have been instances of players losing their form under the responsibility of captaincy. Michael Vaughan, another Ashes-winning England skipper, is a good example of this. Some players, however, thrive on it. Both the batting and bowling averages of Imran Khan – the captain who got Pakistan the 1992 world cup and is now serving as the prime minister of the country, were improved when he captained the national cricket team than when he didn't, although Pakistan won only 29% of their Tests with Khan as the captain.
Some feel batsmen are more naturally suited to the role since they don't have the burden of bowling, they have more time to mull over tactics. Others believe that batsmen have a better understanding of field placement. Whatever it is that seems to make batsmen successful captains, it definitely is more than just their capability to hit the ball hard with their bats.