In this series, we take a look at Indian cricket’s greatest captains, India’s record under their leadership, the most significant triumphs as well as the low points, and what made them stand out as skippers.

A term often used in cricket is ‘crisis man’. This is for those players who tend to stand up when their team needs them the most... when all other options fail. When it comes to Rahul Dravid, this term goes beyond individual matches. Indian cricket turned to him every time it needed a solution, every time it had to plug a hole.

Whether it was handing the wicketkeeping gloves to him in One-Day Internationals or recalling him to the 50-over team during the 2011 tour of England, the Indian team often looked at Dravid to go the extra mile.

And even when it comes to captaincy, Dravid was the man who stepped in when Indian cricket was in the sort of turmoil it had never faced before. The fallout between Sourav Ganguly and Greg Chappell is widely remembered. It was bitter and left the team in a precarious position as Ganguly was removed as skipper. What tends to get forgotten, though, is the fact that Dravid took the position of leader at that time and rebuilt trust within the team.

How Rahul Dravid, the consummate team man, ‘kept’ his place in India’s ODI side

Two of India’s finest captains – Ganguly and Mahendra Singh Dhoni – enjoyed their stints at the top almost one after the other. And they both were immensely successful with distinct styles. While Ganguly was bold, aggressive and inspiring as a leader, Dhoni guided India to several iconic victories with his cricketing acumen and calm demeanor.

While these two’s contribution will surely stand the test of time, there was a small window between their captaincy tenures that saw a valuable contribution as well. It was between 2005 and ‘07, when Dravid was the full-time skipper of the Indian team.

One could say that Dravid’s achievements as India captain aren’t as recognizable as Ganguly and Dhoni’s. He didn’t teach a country how to never back down or make a habit out of winning big trophies. But as was the case with most aspects of his career, Dravid was dependable as captain.

Under him, India notched-up several memorable wins overseas and also improved dramatically in ODI chases. More importantly, though, youngsters like Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Irfan Pathan and Yuvraj Singh kept growing in confidence during his tenure.

Being an eternal student of the game, Dravid was also tactically astute. Be it bowling changes or field placements, he read the game well and his win-loss ratio as India captain was impressive.

India’s record across formats under Dravid’s captaincy

After taking over as India’s full-time captain from Ganguly, Dravid captained the team in 20 Tests and 62 ODIs. In that period, India had series wins in West Indies, Bangladesh and, most memorably, England.

Dravid’s record as captain in ODIs was patchy even though he started on a tremendous note. He was the first Indian captain to win his first four series in charge (a feat matched since by Rohit Sharma). He oversaw a superb winning streak when India set a record for 16 consecutive successful chases. All that good work, however, came undone when India were infamously eliminated from the 2007 ODI World Cup after the group stage.

India's record under Rahul Dravid as capt.

Format Span Matches Won Lost Draw W/L
Tests 2003-2007 25 8 (#7) 6 11 1.333
ODIs 2000-2007 79 42 (#5) 33 4 1.272
T20Is N/A - - - - -
All formats 2000-2007
104 50 (#5) 39 11 1.282

Also read: The growing legacy of Rahul Sharad Dravid

It is worth noting that Dravid’s win/loss record in Tests and ODIs are both among the best in Indian cricket history.

Indian captains with best W/L ratio in Tests

Captain Mat Won Lost Draw W/L
Kohli 55 33 12 10 2.750
Ganguly 49 21 13 15 1.615
Dhoni 60 27 18 15 1.500
Dravid 25 8 6 11 1.333
Gavaskar 47 9 8 30 1.125
Criteria: Minimum 10 matches

Indian captains with best W/L ratio in ODIs

Captain Mat Won Lost Tied NR W/L
Kohli 89 62 24 1 2 2.583
Dhoni 200 110 74 5 11 1.486
Dravid 79 42 33 0 4 1.272
Azharuddin 174 90 76 2 6 1.184
Kapil Dev 74 39 33 0 2 1.181
Ganguly 146 76 65 0 5 1.169
Criteria: Minimum 20 matches

Personal record during captaincy

As skipper, his form dipped at the fag end of his reign; he averaged 25 against England and 21 on the South Africa tour in the year before relinquishing captaincy. Dravid’s batting style was pretty much the same throughout his career. In ODIs, his average increased when he was captain. But in Tests, where his presence was invaluable, his average dropped significantly when he was the leader. It wasn’t poor by any stretch, but it didn’t match his regular, high standards.

Rahul Dravid in Tests

Mat Inns Runs HS Ave SR 100 50
As captain 25 45 1736 146 44.51 41.95 4 10
Not as captain 139 241 11552 270 53.73 42.59 32 53

Rahul Dravid in ODIs

Mat Inns Runs HS Ave SR 100 50
As captain 79 75 2658 105 42.19 75.42 2 25
Not as captain 265 243 8231 153 38.28 69.98 10 58

Most famous triumphs

2006 Test series in West Indies: Heading into this tour, India hadn’t won a Test series in the Caribbean since 1971. While the West Indies team was far from what it used to be, the Indians had their work cut out nonetheless. And it was Dravid who led his team from the front. After the first three Tests ended in draws, India put up a spirited performance in the fourth and final Test to bag the series 1-0. Dravid scored 81 and 68 in that match and ended the series as the highest scorer with 497 runs.

2007 Test series in England: Since that tour in 2007, India has traveled to England thrice – in 2011, ‘14 and ‘18. They played 14 Tests across these three tours and lost 11 of those matches. This should give one a fair idea of how difficult Indians tend to find red-ball cricket in England. Which is why the Test series win of 2007 will always be memorable. The first and third matches of that series ended as draws but India got the win in the second Test thanks to Zaheer Khan’s heroics. Dravid’s leadership deserves a lot of credit for the triumph, especially considering the heartbreak India had faced at the ODI World Cup earlier in the year.

Low points in captaincy

2007 ODI World Cup: This isn’t just the lowest point of Dravid’s captaincy, it is also one of the lowest points in Indian cricket history. Having been the runners-up in the previous edition of the mega tournament, India weren’t expected to crash out in the group stage in the West Indies. But Dravid and Co couldn’t recover from a shock defeat to Bangladesh in the first round and were sent packing after losing to Sri Lanka in their third game.

In an essay for ESPNCricinfo, Dravid wrote:

“In 2007, I thought we had a good team that could be competitive on slow wickets in the West Indies. The format, however, was such that we slipped on a big banana skin in our game against Bangladesh. With a four-team group, one bad game and it was all over. That is what happened to India and Pakistan. Not qualifying for the Super Eights in 2007 was probably one of the biggest disappointments of my career. If we had qualified, I am sure we would have grown in confidence. But a tournament like that didn’t give you a chance, and the defeats were followed by an excruciating month of watching other people play from back home in India. To be honest, I just couldn’t get myself to watch.”

Standout qualities as a leader

Nothing shows Dravid’s standout quality as a leader like the infamous Sachin Tendulkar declaration in the 2004 Multan Test. In just his second Test as captain, with regular skipper Ganguly out injured, Dravid took the bold decision of declaring the Indian innings with Tendulkar batting on 194. That decision divides fans to date. While many reckon that India didn’t need to rush at that point, what can’t be denied is this: Dravid never put personal interests ahead of the team’s cause. He had his beliefs and he also had the guts to stand by those beliefs.

Read: Sehwag’s triple, Sachin’s 194, Dravid’s declaration – an epic Test in Multan

“When I entered my maiden selection committee meeting as the newly appointed captain, the first thing the selectors asked me was who my preferred choice for the vice captain was.Without batting an eyelid I said Dravid. He and I shared the same vision for the team. Some eyebrows were raised as Dravid was not known as the fastest one-day bat. But I was certain that only he fitted the bill. 

“I started my Test career with Rahul, even played a bit of junior cricket with him. He was inscrutable, always calm. A pleasure for any captain to work with and a role model for youngsters wanting to become top-level batsmen.”

— Sourav Ganguly via 'A Century Is Not Enough'

“Every captain has their way – there are captains who think differently, and Rahul Dravid was also one captain who thought differently, but he was very clear in his communication. He would say ‘this is your role and you have to work accordingly’. He was such a great team player. His style of captaincy was also for the team.

Whenever there was a problem, he was always there. Sometimes it gets difficult to communicate with a captain because they are always surrounded by things. But Dravid was one such captain, that you can even approach him at 2 am at night with a problem. A captain’s role is to keep communication with all the players, and he did that.”

— Irfan Pathan via 'ESPNcricinfo'

“It is so unfortunate that we do not give Rahul Dravid enough credit for his captaincy. We only talk about Sourav Ganguly, MS Dhoni, now we talk about Virat Kohli, but Rahul Dravid has been a fabulous captain for India as well. Even his records, he’s probably the most under-rated cricketer and probably the most under-rated leader as well.

“We won in England, West Indies, we won some 14 or 15 games on the trot. If you look at Dravid as a cricketer, I think if you asked him to open the batting in Test cricket, he did, he batted at No 3, he kept wickets for India, he batted as a finisher, he did everything what Indian cricket asked him or what a captain asked him to do and that is the kind of role models you want.”

— Gautam Gambhir via 'Star Sports'

Also read:

MS Dhoni – the legend who led his team to three ICC trophies

Sourav Ganguly’s genius was moulded by self-belief and instinct