The captaincy of MS Dhoni and Sourav Ganguly – two of India’s greatest skippers – is a constant topic of debate among cricket fans. While there is no questioning the greatness of the two leaders who transformed Indian cricket in their own ways, the debate of who had a bigger impact is not an easy one to settle. That’s the question a few former international cricketers have tried to answer in a recent television debate.

Indian cricket’s official broadcasters Star Sports conducted a survey in which the two captains were judged on different parameters developed in association with ESPNCricinfo.

In the final result, Dhoni edged out Ganguly as India’s greatest captain by a small margin.

In each category, an average score was calculated from each panel members’ votes. After the results of each were totalled together, Dhoni was ahead by less than half a point, according to a press release from the broadcaster.

Ganguly scored higher than Dhoni in four categories – captaincy away from home, transformational effects of captaincy on team, success of team handed over to the next captain and overall impact.

Dhoni scored more points in the four categories of captaincy at home, ODI captaincy, titles won and performance as batsman while captaining the team.

Speaking on Star Sports’ show Cricket Connected, former Sri Lanka captain and current MCC President Kumar Sangakkara, former India openers Gautam Gambhir and Kris Srikkanth, former South Africa captain Graeme Smith weighed in on different criteria:

Kumar Sangakkara

Test captaincy record away from home:

“Giving that Indian team a lot of steel, self-belief, character. Forget about winning at home. I think all sides are comfortable winning at home. But it’s about going outside in Test conditions that you are not familiar with against the best in the world and having that fire, hunger and belief to win. And I think that’s where Dada made the biggest difference to Indian cricket.”

Legacy left behind for successor:

“You can be judged on a lot of things but sometimes you have to leave something behind and I think in that sense, Dada did a lot to create a wonderful legacy for others to inherit and MS benefitted from that.”

Impact as a batsman during captaincy:

“In one-day cricket, the ability to finish, is always to me, very, very tough. So, I would go with MS for sure in limited overs cricket, in white-ball cricket just because he batted at that tougher finisher position, but in Test cricket, without a doubt, Ganguly every day.”

Sourav Ganguly's record as captain

Format Span Mat Won Lost Tied Draw W/L
Tests 2000-2005 49 21 (#3) 13 0 15 1.615
ODIs 1999-2005 146 76 (#3) 65 0 5 1.169
T20Is N/A - - - - - -
All formats 1999-2005 195 97 (#4) 78 0 15 1.243

MS Dhoni's record as captain

Format Span Matches Won Lost Tied Draw W/L
Tests 2008-2014 60 27 (#2) 18 0 15 1.500
ODIs 2007-2018 200 110 (#1) 74 5 11 1.486
T20Is 2007-2016 72 41 (#1) 28 1 2 1.464
All formats 2007-2018 332 178 (#1) 120 6 15 1.483

Gautam Gambhir

Test captaincy record away from home:

“The expectations after winning the [2011] World Cup… we just couldn’t deliver. If we had gone with an open mind, thinking that even if we lose, the world won’t come to an end, we probably would have given ourselves a better chance. If our first intent had been to go out and win, we just didn’t have that.”

Overall impact as captain:

“Obviously, both these guys have taken Indian cricket forward, but just purely from an impact point of view, I can only talk about MS Dhoni because he was very serious about taking Indian cricket forward.”

Legacy left behind for successor:

“When MS Dhoni finished [his captaincy stint], he hadn’t given enough quality players to Virat Kohli, apart from Virat Kohli himself and Rohit Sharma, or Jasprit Bumrah now. There are not too many world beaters or probably people who win you tournaments.”

“But look at what Sourav Ganguly gave to Indian cricket. Yuvraj Singh, Man of the Series in two World Cups, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag – these kinds of world beaters.”

Details of Star Sports-ESPNCricinfo survey

3) ODI CAPTAINCY 6.8 8.1
 TOTALS 60.5 60.9

Graeme Smith

Test captaincy at home:

“The memories that come to mind is that he [Ganguly] brought a hardness that perception wise hadn’t been there before. He was certainly quite a fiery character on the field and he certainly was a huge pillar in the strength of Indian cricket and where it’s gone to today.”

ODI captaincy:

“The biggest difference between Dada’s captaincy and MS’s captaincy is MS, the player for me. I think in that middle order, the ability to close games, win games, finish games in that calm that he brought to the people around him. I think for me, that is probably the biggest difference between the two heroes, is MS Dhoni. If Dada had an MS type player, his team was slightly more developed, I think you would have seen him win plenty more trophies. Dada was blessed to play or not blessed to play in an era where Australian cricket was at the forefront and dominating the world game as well which at the time the team had won the most during that period.”

Batting record as captain:

“From my perspective, it’s always difficult to move away from an opening batsman and a captain as challenging. I agree that when it comes to Test cricket, having played against MS, you would always felt that you had an opportunity to work him over, specially away and out of India, but I think when it comes to Test cricket, I’ll have to sit with Dada, but one-day cricket, certainly MS is my man.”

Overall impact as captain:

“You are talking about two iconic figures and outstanding cricketers. It’s such small margins and it’s very difficult to debate, but I think, like Allan Border probably did in the early days of Australian cricket, setting them up for the success, I think that you have got to look at Dada here and say that what he did for Indian cricket was iconic.”

Most Tests wins away from home for India

Captain Span Mat Won Lost Tied Draw W/L
Kohli 2014-2020 29 13 11 0 5 1.181
Ganguly 2000-2005 28 11 10 0 7 1.100
Dhoni 2009-2014 30 6 15 0 9 0.400
Dravid 2004-2007 17 5 4 0 8 1.250
Bedi 1976-1978 14 3 8 0 3 0.375
(Captaincy record)

Most Tests wins at home for India

Captain Span Mat Won Lost Tied Draw W/L
Dhoni 2008-2013 30 21 3 0 6 7.000
Kohli 2015-2019 26 20 1 0 5 20.000
Azharuddin 1990-1999 20 13 4 0 3 3.250
Ganguly 2000-2005 21 10 3 0 8 3.333
Gavaskar 1978-1985 29 7 2 0 20 3.500
(Captaincy record)

Kris Srikkanth

Test captaincy record at home:

“See, it’s a very, very difficult comparison. If you say 2001 series against Australia, I mean definitely I think Sourav Ganguly, coming back and beating the Steve Waugh side. Overall impact in the home series, definitely I think Dhoni because Sourav had the benefit of [having both] Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh while he was playing whereas Dhoni did not have that luxury.”

Transformational impact on team inherited:

“He [Ganguly] took captaincy at a very crucial time. Don’t forget, he was the guy who set up the process of transformation going. He transformed the entire mindset of the Indian team which is very important. See, cricket is a mind game. He transformed the minds of every player. Then a fantastic winning combination was given on a platter to MS Dhoni and said, ‘Here Dhoni, you have a fantastic team, just continue what we started.”

Record at major events:

“One-day cricket, definitely Dhoni, what a man; World Cup 2011, talking about Champions Trophy, talking about wins in Australia, Sri Lanka, of course the T20 World Cup, so as a limited overs captain, Dhoni had a huge, huge impact, both as a captain as well as a player and as well as a wicketkeeper, don’t forget that. But in Test match cricket, it has to be only Ganguly.”

(With inputs from Star Sports and ESPNCricinfo)