Cricket has a very funny perception that bowlers can’t be good captains. Over the years, many bowlers went on to prove that this is a misconception. In fact, bowlers like Wasim Akram, Daniel Vettori, Anil Kumble, Bob Willis and many others have left a good legacy as captains.
Even the IPL has also had a very few bowlers who were captains. Out of the 55 captains in IPL over the years, only 7 of them were bowlers. Let us see the top 5 impactful bowler-captains of all times:
5. Ravichandran Ashwin
R Ashwin was selected as Kings XI Punjab’s captain after the franchise acquired his services in the 2018’s auction. KXIP had a brilliant start to the tournament in 2018 winning 5 of its first 6 matches. Given the way it started, it was touted to win the tournament comfortably. It then crash-landed losing 7 of its next 8 games. Such a drastic turnaround put heavy pressure on Ashwin’s captaincy. Ultimately KXIP ended 7th in the points table that year and failed to qualify for the playoffs.
Coincidentally, in 2019 too, KXIP had a similar run under the leadership of Ashwin. The team started off well, but faltered towards the end of the season and failed to qualify for the playoffs. As of today, KXIP has won 12 matches in the 28 Ashwin captained. Given that a few squads will be looking for a new captain for the IPL 2022, Ashwin might return to captaincy.
4. Zaheer Khan
Zaheer Khan was selected as the captain of the Delhi Daredevils in 2016. After a decent run in the IPL for Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore, Zaheer was bought by DD in 2015’s auction. Quite similar to Ashwin’s winning pattern as a captain, Zaheer too won 5 matches as a captain, out of the first 7 matches in 2016. His team then ended up losing 5 matches out of the next 7 and failed to qualify for the playoffs.
In 2017, the scenario reversed and DD lost 6 of its first 8 matches. It ended on a strong note winning 4 of the next six games. Though DD failed to qualify for the playoffs, Zaheer’s captaincy was appreciated. Zaheer’s retirement from cricket in 2017, meant that was his last year as captain too.
3. Daniel Vettori
Daniel Vettori, the ex-New Zealand captain had a great run as Royal Challengers Bangalore’s captain. Vettori was roped in by RCB in the 2011 auction. He was soon made the captain too. In 2011, RCB had a poor start to the season winning only 1 of its first 5 games. It then went on to win 7 games consecutively and winning one more game later on. RCB stood highest on the points table ahead of the playoffs. However, RCB lost to CSK in the finals ending its dream run.
In 2012, under the captaincy of Vettori, RCB performed well winning 8 games in the Qualifiers. However, it could not qualify for the Playoffs because of a poor NRR. Overall, Vettori had a good run as RCB’s captain. He was particularly praised for grooming the then youngsters, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Sreenath Aravind and Mayank Agarwal. Vettori has a winning % of 54% in 22 matches.
2. Anil Kumble
Anil Kumble was with Royal Challengers Bangalore since the start of the IPL. He was chosen its captain in 2009. RCB won only 3 of its first 3 games in 2009 but made a solid comeback at the end. They won 5 games in the end and qualified for the Playoffs. In the final, RCB lost to Deccan Chargers despite Anil Kumble’s spell of 4/16. RCB also qualified for the Champions League later that year and won 2 of the 4 games it played.
In 2010’s IPL, once again qualified for the Playoffs winning 7 of its 14 matches. A good NRR helped it get through. However, RCB lost in the final to Mumbai Indians and once again failed to win the coveted trophy. Overall, Anil Kumble has an impressive win % of 57.7% in 26 matches.
1. Shane Warne
Shane Warne is credited for the iconic tournament win of the Rajasthan Royals in the inaugural IPL season. With the weakest squad on paper and a team filled with youngsters, RR comfortably won 11 of the 14 games in the Qualifiers. It won the semi-finals comfortably against the Delhi Daredevils and won the final against Chennai Super Kings too. The captain-coach Shane Warne was credited for making stars out of the young players Shane Watson, Yusuf Pathan, Sohail Tanvir, Albie Morkel and Ravindra Jadeja.
In both 2009 and 2010, RR failed to qualify for the Playoffs despite putting a decent performance. However, his art of making the best out of the least resources won him praises from all quarters. Warne won a handsome number of 30 games from the 55 he captained and remains the most successful bowler captain in the history of IPL.
I am a developer by profession, a passionate Cricket fan and have contributed with articles about this sport on various blogs and knowledge sharing platforms. I have been awarded the Top Writer Award on Quora for 2018 and have over 25 million views and 10 thousand followers on Quora.