Ranking the captains

This article was inspired from an online discussion where the posters were debating who has been the better of the two captains for India in Test Cricket, Sourav Ganguly or MS Dhoni. Many different arguments were presented to argue in the favor of one over the other: overall win-loss record as a captain, victories against weaker/stronger opponents, performance outside India/sub-continent etc.

Previously, we have presented a method for ranking teams and players purely based on the one-on-one match-up between the teams/players. Here, we apply the same technique to rank captains in International Cricket. The basic idea remains the same: we look at the head-to-head record between the captains in a particular format of the game, and based purely on this record, we generate a ranking of the captains. Apart from the fact that this method is absolutely free of any parameters (and therefore the most objective possible), the other advantages include:

  1. This method automatically takes care of the encounter against the “weaker” teams. That is, if a captain has an inflated win-loss record because many of his victories were against the weak teams, then that may not necessarily lead to a higher ranking for that captain. On the other hand, wins against stronger teams will tend to earn the captain a higher ranking.
  2. It also takes care of the fact the fact that teams may have been strong or weak at different times in the time period that we consider. This is because teams are usually led by different captains during their peak phase (captains with good records tend to stay) and down phase (captains with bad records are fired).

You can find the rankings of the captains for all international matches year 2000 onwards on the Captain Rankings page. The page lists the ranks of the captains based on their win-loss-draw record for the time period 2000 – present, but it is possible to generate the rankings for any time period within this interval by choosing the appropriate time period in the menu on the right hand side.

So what do these ranks tell us about the Ganguly verus Dhoni debate? In both the Tests and the ODIs, Dhoni is ranked better than Ganguly. In fact Dhoni is ranked 5th overall in the Test format for the time period 2000-2013, 3rd in the ODIs and 5th in the T20 format. No other captain does as well in all the three formats of the game (Graeme Smith is a close second), although Ricky Ponting does beat Dhoni hands down in both the Test and the ODI format.

This analysis may still not be enough to convince the detractors of Dhoni, but there is little doubt that Dhoni has indeed been a terrific skipper for Team India, and he is as good (if not better than) as Ganguly was.