Ajit Wadekar (Tests): Wadekar had the most sensational captaincy debut at his time. His very first assignment was a tough five-Test away series against the mighty West Indians in 1971. Few expected us to even draw the series let alone win, but that is exactly what happened. Sunil Gavaskar made his debut and we won one Test and managed to draw four. It was a miracle at its time.
The next away tour was equally tough. England had won five Test series on the trot and were undefeated in 10 series. Wadekar’s boys again bearded the lion in its den and won 1-0. When England visited us, we continued to assert our supremacy and won 2-1.
When we visited England again there was a total reversal and we were whitewashed 0-3. In the second Test at Lord’s, we crashed to 42 all out after being made to follow on. That is still infamously referred to as “The Summer of 42” and Wadekar never played cricket for India ever again!
Sunil Gavaskar (Tests): Sunil Gavaskar was emerging as the most fearsome batsmen in the world and it was but natural that he would get the captaincy. For the first one-and-a-half years of his career he remained undefeated and won his first four series on home soil. That included West Indies, Australia and Pakistan.
His first away tour was in Australia and he came back with a 1-1 tied series that included the famous Melbourne Test, which was the last of the series. Australia needed just 143 runs in their final innings to go 2-0 up, but a fantastic 5-wicket haul by the injured Kapil Dev saw them crashing to 83 all down.
Gavaskar lost his next series as captain and it was mainly downhill after that. In the end, he failed to win any of his last 5 Test series and had to go.
Kapil Dev (ODIs): Kapil was made ODI captain in September 1982 and won the World Cup in June 1983 in which he gave both his career-best individual batting and bowling innings. That win totally transformed Indian cricket and Kapil ushered in a new era.
However we were immediately brought down to earth. West Indies whitewashed us 0-5 on home soil in the very next ODI series. After that the ODI captaincy kept passing between Kapil and Gavaskar for the next few years and it was Gavaskar who won the mini world cup in 1985 in Australia.
Gavaskar’s Test captaincy may have ended badly, but in ODIs he signed off after that high.
But then we began our losing streak in Sharjah. Pakistan thrashed India 5-1 in India. Finally, after our exit in the 1987 WC semi-final, Kapil’s career as captain was sealed.
Sourav Ganguly: After the match-fixing scandal, Ganguly revived Indian cricket. He brought in aggression and a sense of belief in the players. We started winning more frequently in Tests abroad and had a chance to beat Australia in Australia which we narrowly missed.
There was the famous 2-1 victory over Australia set up by VVS Laxman's 281 at Eden Gardens and we finally beat Pakistan in Pakistan in both Tests and ODIs.
We won the ICC Champions Trophy and reached the final of the ODI WC.
Then complacency set in and Ganguly’s personal form plummeted. We started losing and went down in the ICC rankings of both Tests and ODIs.
In the end he was ejected after a very ugly spat with the then coach Greg Chappell.
MS Dhoni: Nobody has had such a spectacular rise and fall. From 2007-11, Dhoni won both the T20 and ODI WCs and took us to No. 1 in Test rankings. He also won the IPL and Champions League. Personally he flourished too. He became statistically India’s greatest wicket-keeper and the No. 1 batsmen in the ODI rankings.
From 2011-12 he doesn’t have a single series victory against a tough team. We have lost all the ODI tournaments and Test series against the top-ranked sides.
If Dhoni’s captaincy ends now, then it would be a very bad end indeed.
But if the selectors throw him one more lifeline, then he’ll get another chance to go out on a high.
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/