Top 10 most successful Test captains in history

Captain Period Tests Won Lost Draw/tie W/L/D percentage
Steve Waugh (AUS) 1999-2004 57 41 9 7/0 71.92/15.78/12.28%
Ricky Ponting (AUS) 2004-10 77 48 16 13/0 62.33/20.77/16.88%
Vivian Richards (WI) 1980-91 50 27 8 15/0 54.00/16.00/30.00%
Mark Taylor (AUS) 1994-99 50 26 13 11/0 52.00/26.00/22.00%
Michael Clarke (AUS) 2011-15 47 24 16 7/0 51.06/34.04/14.89%
Michael Vaughan (ENG) 2003-08 51 26 11 14/0 50.98/21.56/27.45%
Hansie Cronje (SA) 1994-2000 53 27 11 15/0 50.94/20.75/28.30%
Peter May (ENG) 1955-61 41 20 10 11/0 48.78/24.39/26.82%
Clive Lloyd (WI) 1974-85 74 36 12 26/0 48.64/16.21/35.13%
Graeme Smith (SA, ICC) 2003-14 109 53 29 27/0 48.62/26.60/24.77%

*Criteria: Minimum 40 Tests; most successful based on win percentage

Test captaincy

Test cricket gives you the option of playing for a draw and more often than not, walk away holding your head high. You can delay declarations or not declare at all (unlike Joe Root in Headingley), as a batting team, merely look to play out the fifth day and bowling teams too can stem the run flow easily by having defensive fieldsets and bowling defensive lines and lengths. These are no-brainer tactics to “save” a Test match. And because teams are not in a do or die situation or can lack ambition, spectators are not kept on the edge of their seats.

What about winning?

Well, to win in five-day cricket, you need balanced teams, sporting pitches and forward-thinking captains. Those who are prepared to lose in their bid to win. As a captain, you need batsmen like Virender Sehwag, David Warner, Shikhar Dhawan, and the like. And among bowlers, Mitchell Starc, Dale Steyn, James Anderson, Shane Warne, Ravichandran Ashwin, and the like. To win Tests, you are looking for batsmen who can score quickly and give enough overs to the bowlers to take 20 wickets. And you also need bowlers who are wicket-takers.

The most successful captains in Test cricket almost always have had players in the mould as aforementioned. The likes of Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Vaughan, and Graeme Smith have such high win percentages because the make-up of their teams was almost always perfect for the longest format of cricket. Waugh and Ponting were blessed to lead the best set of cricketers of their generation; Smith had a terrifying pace battery who thrived in pretty much every condition around the world and the presence of all-rounders like Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock helped immensely; and Vaughan had a well-balanced line-up too, with which he was able to reclaim the Ashes for England in 2005.

In the modern day scenario, teams are more imbalanced than balanced and captains have a difficult time in striking the right combination of batsmen, all-rounders and bowlers. Virat Kohli’s India, in home conditions, are the most well-balanced Test team going around. Otherwise, you look at England, Australia, South Africa, and even Pakistan, each one of them doesn’t have the balance as they once used to. And the lack of all-rounders at their disposal is a major reason.

Most Test matches as captain

Test cricket has been played since 1877, with Australia hosting England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), and here’s the list of captains who’ve led their countries in the most Tests:

Captain Period Tests Test captaincy record
Graeme Smith (SA, ICC) 2003-14 109 Led SA in 108 Tests
Allan Border (AUS) 1984-94 93 Most Tests as Australian captain
Stephen Fleming (NZ) 1997-2006 80 Most Tests as NZ captain
Ricky Ponting (AUS) 2004-10 77 Fourth most consecutive Test matches without defeat for a captain (22)
Clive Lloyd (WI) 1974-85 74 Most consecutive Test matches without defeat (27)
MS Dhoni (India) 2008-14 60 First wicketkeeper to lead India in Tests
Alastair Cook (ENG) 2010-16 59 Won two Ashes series at home;
6th ENG captain to win more than one Ashes series
Steve Waugh (AUS) 1999-2004 57 Seventh most consecutive Test matches without defeat (18)
Misbah-ul-Haq (PAK) 2010-17 56 Most Test wins as Pakistan captain (26)
Arjuna Ranatunga (SL) 1989-99 56 Most Tests as Sri Lankan captain

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