With almost every team in the Indian Premier League (IPL) containing an assortment of star players from across the globe, stepping into captaincy can never be an easy task. Aside from honing in on opposition sides’ strengths and weaknesses, it becomes imperative to be aware of the domestic players’ focal points while tackling the crew of big names from India and abroad.
As a consequence, having extensive experience as a player could come in handy when receiving the maiden chance to lead a franchise. In descending order, let us take a look at the players who took part in the most number of IPL matches before captaining for the first time. Surprisingly, not even one overseas skipper features on this list.
#1 Ajinkya Rahane (Rising Pune Supergiant) – 97 matches
Rahane broke the record for most matches as a player before captaining for the first time when he led Rising Pune Supergiant in the absence of regular skipper Steven Smith. The Australian batsman had to pull out of the clash against Delhi Daredevils due to a stomach illness.
However, Rahane’s IPL captaincy began on a sour note as his team were thrashed by a massive margin of 97 runs at their home venue. His strategies came up short with Sanju Samson blazing a flamboyant century for the Daredevils. The 28-year-old had led India to victory in the recently completed Test series decider against Smith’s Australian side in Dharamsala.
#2 Murali Vijay (Kings XI Punjab) – 92 matches
Before joining Kings XI Punjab in 2015, Vijay had represented Chennai Super Kings with distinction and also turned up for the Daredevils. Unlike his compact approach in the game’s traditional format, the opener can tear apart bowling attacks right from the start of an innings in T20s.
During the 2016 season, Vijay got an opportunity to showcase his leadership skills when Kings XI sacked David Miller after a string of poor results. Upon getting his IPL captaincy career off to a winning start, he led his team to a couple more victories in the tournament. The franchise chose Glenn Maxwell as their skipper for the 2017 season following which he was ruled out with a shoulder injury.
#3 Rohit Sharma (Mumbai Indians) – 84 matches
2013 was quite the year for Rohit Sharma and his captaincy debut in IPL could have kick-started the golden run. After receiving the chance to lead Mumbai Indians when skipper Ricky Ponting removed himself from the playing eleven, he took them to their maiden IPL title. Leading by example, the elegant right-hander scored 538 runs in the tournament with four fifty-plus knocks.
Rohit completed the double when he led Mumbai Indians to the Champions League T20 title later that year. Needless to say, his case remains the most inspired captaincy change in IPL history.
#4 Zaheer Khan (Delhi Daredevils) – 77 matches
Zaheer Khan was picked by the Daredevils for INR 4 crores in the 2015 IPL auction. Despite him retiring from international cricket later that year, the veteran was unveiled as the skipper before the 2016 season began. He took over the mantle from South African all-rounder JP Duminy.
With seven victories and seven losses, the club had a much better tournament and Zaheer’s ability as captain was recognised. One of India’s greatest ever fast bowlers, he often played mentor to the younger pacers during the final phase of his international career.
Possessing enormous tactical acumen, the 38-year-old continues to lead the Daredevils for the 2017 edition as well.
#5 Shikhar Dhawan (Sunrisers Hyderabad) – 68 matches
Shikhar Dhawan was a left-field pick when Sunrisers Hyderabad asked him to lead their charge in the 2013 edition of the now defunct Champions League T20. Even though they failed to qualify for the semi-finals, the team management decided to persist with him for the 2014 IPL season.
The southpaw earned a chance to captain the Sunrisers as previous season’s skippers Kumar Sangakkara and Cameron White were not in the squad. Having been a part of various clubs such as Delhi Daredevils, Mumbai Indians and Deccan Chargers before, Dhawan’s experience as player tilted the scales in his favour. However, he lost the captaincy to Darren Sammy after a slew of poor returns.
#6 Virat Kohli (Royal Challengers Bangalore) – 54 matches
Synonymously associated with Royal Challengers Bangalore since the 2008 season, Virat Kohli played 54 games before getting the opportunity to lead the team. His first taste at IPL captaincy came towards the end of the 2011 season when he found himself stepping into Daniel Vettori’s shoes for a handful of games.
After leading for a few more matches in the 2012 edition, Kohli took over the reins on a full-time basis in 2013. Steadily coming into his own across various aspects of batsmanship, the right-hander has been leading the Royal Challengers since then. Cut to 2017, he is India’s skipper in all three formats of the game. However, his wait for lifting the IPL trophy refuses to abate.