Ahead of IPL 2021, one of the most interesting facets was thought to be how the different captains will go about their business.
Will a young Rishabh Pant emulate his idol MS Dhoni? Or will captaincy finally unleash the consistency many crave from Sanju Samson? Can Eoin Morgan’s Midas touch in white-ball cricket propel Kolkata Knight Riders to IPL glory? These were some of the questions fans wanted answers to before IPL 2021 got underway.
Although IPL 2021 had to be indefinitely postponed due to the raging COVID-19 pandemic, each of the eight captains had enough time to showcase their tactical acumen on the field.
As always, some came out of the battle with their heads held high, while others couldn’t seem to get a grip on the proceedings as their team sunk in front of their eyes. Without further ado, we will try to rank the eight IPL 2021 skippers solely based on how they led their teams this season.
#8 Eoin Morgan
One of the best white-ball skippers in the game failed to get going in IPL 2021. Eoin Morgan is ranked last in our IPL 2021 captaincy rankings because the 34-year-old failed to impress despite having one of the strongest sides in the league.
Many expected KKR to be the dark horses this season, but a mixture of poor captaincy and underperforming players left them lurking in the bottom half of the table.
The distinct aggression and innovation which have become a hallmark of Eoin Morgan’s captaincy were missing in IPL 2021. He continued to stick with a side that very evidently wasn’t firing, refusing to mix it up in terms of batting-order or bowling changes.
#7 David Warner
The fact that David Warner was replaced by Kane Williamson by the end says more about his captaincy than we ever will. Admittedly the Australian was handicapped by a struggling middle-order, and that is why he escaped the wooden spoon finish in the IPL 2021 captaincy rankings.
However, Warner failed to use the resources at his disposal effectively, with his pedestrian approach on sluggish Chennai wickets proving to be SRH’s downfall. His insistence on using strike bowler Rashid Khan in the middle overs instead of the powerplay dumbfounded many, while his management of the fifth-bowling option also left a lot to be desired.
#6 KL Rahul
There is no doubt about the pedigree of KL Rahul, the white-ball batsman. But KL Rahul the skipper didn’t really set the world alight in IPL 2021. The 29-year-old was a passive skipper this season.
The few games Punjab Kings won this season were down to individual brilliance, rather than a shrewd bit of captaincy. Although KL Rahul seemed to grow in stature as the tournament went on, it was PBKS’ start, where the skipper seemed more focussed on individual performances than collective effort, which caught them out.
KL Rahul seemed to run the selected eleven through their paces and didn’t seem to have any answers once Plan A failed on the night.
#5 Rohit Sharma
Many feel Rohit Sharma should be India’s white-ball skipper, considering his success with the Mumbai Indians, and he was spot on with his captaincy in IPL 2021 as well.
He quickly adjusted to the alien Chennai conditions, moving away from MI’s Wankhede template. Rohit Sharma’s use of Rahul Chahar in the middle overs was particularly impressive. He immaculately rotated the bowlers at his disposal.
Even with the bat, Rohit Sharma led from the front to show how batsmen should combat the sticky Chepauk wicket. He was let down by his personnel in the first half of the season, with the famed MI middle-order failing to fire.
But the last two games were proof Rohit Sharma can mastermind victories when he has the players to back him up, and he pauses the season with his captaincy stock high.
#4 Sanju Samson
A captain who won just three games this season shouldn’t ideally be at no.3, but Sanju Samson certainly surprised many with his leadership qualities.
The commander of a Rajasthan Royals side that lost most of its overseas contingent and didn’t have any prominent Indian stars, Sanju Samson exceeded expectations in his short tenure as captain.
Known as a flamboyant player who fails to convert his starts, Sanju Samson displayed a maturity beyond his years, curbing his natural instincts to play a couple of responsible knocks that guided his team to victory.
As any first-time captain would do, he made his fair share of mistakes. But his insistence on taking responsibility and leading from the front, just like the first game where he backed himself to take RR over the line, was commendable.
#3 Virat Kohli
In a season of what-ifs, we may never know whether Royal Challengers Bangalore could have won their first IPL crown this season. Although chinks in RCB’s armor started to appear in the final few games, no one can discount the fact that they sat comfortably third when IPL 2021 halted.
Virat Kohli, along with RCB’s backroom staff, deserves credit for their use of Harshal Patel at the death, with the move responsible for their 100% win record at the start. Some of Virat Kohli’s decisions, such as his decision to bowl Shahbaz Ahmed at the death against SRH proved prophetic.
His insistence to move away from his no.3 slot to open for RCB resulted in them having the fastest scoring opening pair in IPL 2021.
After many years, Virat Kohli and RCB seemed to have a game plan which worked for them. They admirably stuck by it, and will surely wonder what might have been this season.
#2 Rishabh Pant
IPL’s youngest skipper was thrown into the deep end, with his captaincy confirmed mere days before the start of IPL 2021.
But Rishabh Pant exceeded expectations at the Delhi Capitals, as he led them to the top of the IPL 2021 points table. Shedding his young boy image, a calm and reserved Rishabh Pant showed tremendous maturity to lead a DC side packed with stars.
A striking feature of his captaincy was how he quickly learned from his mistakes. After missing a trick by not making Ravichandran Ashwin complete his quota against RR, Rishabh Pant never made the same mistake again. Similarly, he ensured Marcus Stoinis bowled at the start or in the middle overs after the part-timer was carted for 23 runs in the final over against RCB.
Rishabh Pant still has a lot to learn, but the way he rose to the occasion and looked at home from match one makes him an ideal runner-up in the captaincy standings.
#1 MS Dhoni
Many thought IPL 2021 would be a difficult season for the Chennai Super Kings. But MS Dhoni proved once again that even though he may have lost his explosive ability with the bat, there are few better than him when it comes to leading a side.
MS Dhoni quickly pinpointed the issues that plagued CSK last season and rectified them with some shrewd on-field decision making. He maximized his bowling and batting resources, mixing it up to keep the opposition guessing.
He read the pitches and conditions much better than his counterparts, evidenced by his decision to field an extra spinner against RCB while Virat Kohli went in with an extra seamer. MS Dhoni’s famed backing of players was there for everyone to see, as the CSK of old enthralled fans in IPL 2021 once again.
In a league packed with quality, a 39-year-old MS Dhoni proved to everyone how there is no one better than him in the IPL when it comes to donning the skipper’s hat.