Ten captaincy announcements no one saw coming

Kieron Pollard was at the crease when the second T20I was called off Getty Images

Kieron Pollard

Years since last ODI before being named captain: 3
A bright prospect in his early days, Kieron Pollard had become essentially a T20 mercenary by 2009, playing in various leagues across the world but rarely for West Indies. Disputes with Cricket West Indies resulted in him being dropped from the 2015 World Cup squad, last play an ODI in October 2016 and feature in just 14 of the 36 T20Is played by West Indies between 2016 and 2018. But with a change in the presidency of the board, a door opened for Pollard's return to regular international cricket. While he did not make it from the probables list to the final squad for the 2019 World Cup, he was included in the side for the home T20Is against India. Still, it was hard to see a leap from just returning to the side to becoming West Indies' white-ball captain, but that is exactly what was announced on September 9. Here's a look at some other such surprising captaincy appointments.

Dimuth Karunaratne

Years since last ODI before being named captain: 4
Imagine naming a World Cup squad with a captain who hasn't played an ODI in four years! Sri Lanka found themselves in that position after two years of turmoil in their cricket. Angelo Mathews had been axed after the 2018 Asia Cup, leading to a strained relationship between him and the coach. Lasith Malinga had come in but lost the ODI series in South Africa 0-5. With reports of infighting, the one man seen as a reliable leader was Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne. He had only taken over the leadership in Tests in February 2019, but the side's massive upset of South Africa away under him had made him a favourite among supporters.

The problem was that his cautious approach to batting was not suited to the shorter formats; one of the reasons he had not been a member of Sri Lanka's white-ball plans since the 2015 World Cup. He was made captain, leading the side in a one-off game against Scotland before jumping straight into the World Cup.

Tim Paine

Tests before captaincy debut: 12
In 2017, Tim Paine had all but given up hopes of making an international comeback and was seriously contemplating a post-cricket career with sports equipment manufacturer Kookaburra. Then, the selectors picked him for the 2017 Ashes against England. He had not played a Test in seven years, after a serious finger injury in an ACA All-Stars game put his future in doubt.

In the aftermath of the ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town, Steven Smith and David Warner were stood down, and Paine found himself taking temporary charge in the middle of the Test match. Following Smith and Warner's one-year bans, Paine was announced as permanent captain, capping one of the most dramatic career turnarounds in recent times.

George Bailey

Internationals before captaincy debut: 0
When Test and ODI captain Michael Clarke gave up the T20I captaincy in 2011, Australia were looking for a young captain and went with Cameron White, who was six years into his international career. When White's form dipped, they turned to someone with even less international experience, in fact, none. Bailey became the first man since Dave Gregory, in the first Test match in 1877, to make his Australia debut as captain. He was selected thanks to his reputation as a leader with Tasmania, though he wasn't actually captaining in the Big Bash, where he played under White for Melbourne Stars. Nevertheless, Bailey went on to captain Australia through the 2012 and 2014 World T20 tournaments and frequently stepped in for Michael Clarke as ODI skipper too, including at the beginning of the successful 2015 World Cup campaign.

James Hopes

Games for Delhi Daredevils before captaincy debut: 6
The IPL has seen its fair share of surprise captains, but none stand out quite as much as the appointment of James Hopes. He played just two seasons of the IPL, one for Kings XI Punjab, one for Daredevils, and didn't do much with bat and ball, but he did take over as captain for three games at the end of Daredevils' dismal 2011 campaign. With Daredevils nearly out of contention for the play-offs with three games to go, Virender Sehwag, their captain, took the call to undergo shoulder surgery. Looking for someone to stand in till the end of the season, Daredevils turned to Hopes, the captain of Queensland. While Hopes' run as Queensland captain lasted till 2015, his stint with Daredevils ended after just three games, and he never played another IPL match.


Tests before captaincy debut: 19
Misbah was 36 and had played just 19 Test matches over eight years since debut when he took the reins of Pakistan. In fact, a few months before his captaincy debut, he was contemplating retirement from all forms of cricket. In 2010, Pakistan cricket fell into crisis after three cricketers, including captain Salman Butt, were charged with spot-fixing. Butt had already been the third captain Pakistan had tried that year; Shahid Afridi had retired from Tests, and Mohammad Yousuf had lost seven straight games in Australia. Meanwhile, the senior-most member of the team, Younis Khan, was feuding with the board chairman, Ijaz Butt. So, Misbah not only returned to the Pakistan team, but was named captain.

Floyd Reifer, Darren Sammy and Jason Holder

Tests before captaincy debut: 4 (Reifer) and 8 (Sammy and Holder)
Since 2009, the West Indies board has been embroiled in a series of disputes with senior cricketers. Their first surprising move was appointing Floyd Reifer, who had made his Test debut in 1997 but had soon been dropped from the squad. He had, in fact, moved to Scotland and only in 2007 announced he was still willing to play for West Indies. In 2009, during a home series against Bangladesh, the West Indies players decided to boycott a Test a day before its start. The board scrambled to organise a replacement side and named Reifer, the oldest player, its captain.

Also part of that team was Darren Sammy, the first international cricketer from St Lucia. He had debuted in 2007 but had not been able to hold down a place in the side. After Reifer's brief stint as captain, Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo returned to the set-up as captain and vice-captain, but when they refused to sign central contracts in 2010, it was Sammy, who had played just eight Tests by then, who was named captain. A few years later, Sammy joined the long list of players feuding with the board, and it was now Jason Holder's turn to take over. Holder made his international debut in 2013, was named ODI captain just a year later and then took over in Tests in 2015.

Sourav Ganguly, Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum and Brad Hodge

There's nothing strange about any of those names in a list of captains individually. But the four of them leading the same side, at the same time? That's something no one saw coming. In the second season of the IPL, the Kolkata Knight Riders coach, John Buchanan, decided to try a split captaincy, with four different captains, each leading the team in different games. Many saw it as an attempt to undermine Ganguly, who was the sole captain the previous season, but Buchanan's explanation was that you needed different views and ways of thinking in T20s. Buchanan was replaced after the season's end, and the experiment was not revisited, with Ganguly announced as the only captain for the 2010 season.

Adam Hollioake

ODIs before captaincy: 5
He only captained England 14 times, but his stint was significant as it was one of the first attempts by a team to split their Test and ODI captaincy, handing the latter to a short-format specialist. Hollioake, a successful captain at Surrey, was just five ODIs into his career when he took over England's ODI captaincy in 1997 from Michael Atherton, who continued to lead the Test side. He was picked ahead of more experienced players such as Alec Stewart and Graeme Hick as he was seen as a natural leader and also someone who understood the shorter format. Even when Stewart replaced Atherton as Test captain, Hollioake continued to lead the ODI team despite Stewart being a regular member of that squad.

Lee Germon

Tests before captaincy debut: 0
During New Zealand's 1994-95 tour of South Africa, three young cricketers admitted to smoking marijuana at an informal function in Paarl. That and the team's poor form in the following home season caused a shake-up in management. Glenn Turner was brought in as coach and he wanted to appoint a captain with proven leadership skills, who had the respect of the players and could maintain discipline both on and off the field by his own example. Lee Germon had not played Test cricket, but was renowned as a leader after moulding Canterbury into the best provincial team in the country. So, he was named Test captain on debut in 1995 and, in his first-ever Test, led a side featuring a number of senior players, including Martin Crowe, Mark Greatbatch and Danny Morrison.