10 Most Successful captain in Test Cricket

When do you think of successful captains in the history of test cricket, who comes to mind? Graeme Smith, who led SA during the 2003s and 2014s, or Allan Border, who led Australia from 1984 to 1994? Or maybe MS Dhoni or Ricky Pointing? Test cricket has been around for nearly as long as the game of cricket itself, with over 2,000 games played to date. Captaining a Test match cricket team can be one of the most difficult jobs in sports, and the role of captaincy differs from that of other sports as well, but there are bound to be some phenomenal captains in the world of Test cricket.

Below is a list of the 10 most successful captains in Test cricket based on the number of wins they accumulated from all nations. Whether they were loved or hated, these 10 leaders put their heart and soul into their teams and led them through thick and thin to become some of the most successful captains in Test cricket history.

#1) Graeme Smith (2003-2014)

Former South African captain Graeme Smith is the most successful captain in terms of wins. This strong opening batsman has been a major part of South Africa’s rise to dominance in test cricket. He is the only captain in the history of test cricket who has led his team over 100 test matches, and he achieved that milestone faster than any other player. Under his captaincy, South Africa (SA) won 53 matches, 29  lost and 27 drawn. His record as a South African skipper looks even more impressive when you take into account that it was under him that they first defeated Australia in their own backyard. Smith holds the record for being involved in the most consecutive partnerships for his country, both as an opener and later as captain. He also holds the record for most centuries with 15 test centuries under his leadership in wins.

#2) Ricky Ponting (2004-2010)

Ricky Ponting is widely regarded as one of Australia’s greatest cricket captains. With a career spanning more than two decades, Ricky captained his country in both Test and One Day International cricket. In that time, he achieved unparalleled success, helping to lead Australia to victory at home and abroad on numerous occasions. As a batsman, he was one of the world’s best players throughout his career. Under his captaincy, Aussies won 48 tests while losing only 15, with 13 draws. Australia’s win ratio under Ricky’s captaincy was above 60%.

#3) Steve Waugh (1999 -2004)

The Steve Waugh Era:  Steve Waugh is one of Australia’s greatest-ever captains. During his captaincy, between 1999 and 2004, he led Australia to a record 16 consecutive wins; a total of 41 wins out of 57 matches, including seven series victories and five clean sweeps; and an unbeaten record of 16 consecutive Test victories. Steve Waugh’s overall win rate was 72%, the highest among all Worlds skippers.

#4) Virat Kholi (2014- 2021)

Virat Kohli has been a vital cog in India’s team for close to a decade now. He’s already broken many records and won several accolades. He continues to lead India, having taken over from MS Dhoni in Tests. He is modern cricket’s era ultimate role model; a workhorse with grit who inspires confidence in his teammates and strikes fear into his opponents. Under Virat Kohli’s leadership, there will be no stopping India! Virat Kholi is India’s most successful test cricket captain. Under his captaincy, India won test matches against New Zealand, England,  and Australia. Until now, Virat captained India in 67 matches and won 41 of them, which is a 59% winning 2.50 win/loss ratio with 11 draws and 16 losses.

#5) Clive Lloyd (1974-1985)

Clive Richard Lloyd, nicknamed Charlie, is a former cricketer who captained the West Indies from 1974 to 1985. As captain, he was known for his aggressive tactics and innovative game-planning. Under his leadership, the West Indies rose from being an inconsistent team on tour to becoming a highly successful one at home and abroad. West Indies won 36 of the 74 matches they played under Clive Capitanicy. His winning percentage was 48%. They also became the world’s No. 1 test cricket side after beating Australia 2–0 in the 1974/75 series. He is often described as one of the best captains that ever lived. Though there are some legendary cricket captains like Don Bradman whose records still stand strong even with modern-day players dominating the game, if you are only looking at test match cricket, then Clive Lloyd stands tall amongst them all.

#6) Allan Border (1984-1994)

Toughness seems to be a quality that runs through all of Allan Border’s successes. Border captained Australia from 1984 to 1994 and ended his career with 93 test matches as captain. During Border’s reign, Australia won 32 Tests, lost 17, and drew 38. Under Border, Australia also reached number one in the test rankings. Under Allan Border’s leadership, Australia defeated New Zealand in a Test series on a historic tour of New Zealand in 1987–88. At the time, it was Australia’s first test series victory in four years.

#7) Stephen Fleming (1997-2006)

The most successful captain in Test cricket in New Zealand is no longer in charge of a national team, but that doesn’t diminish his achievements. Fleming led New Zealand to 28 wins and 22 losses from his 80 matches at the helm and won many series—against Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the West Indies, among many other teams in his time. The Kiwis’ winning percentage was 33% during Fleming’s tenure. For all his efforts, Fleming was named the International Cricket Council (ICC) Cricketer of the Year in 2004.

#8) MS Dhoni (2008-2014)

Of all those who have led their side to a series victory, under his leadership, India won 12 of their 15 test matches. At his time, India soared up to No. 1 in the ICC test rankings for the first time, Dhoni will have his hands full handling an experienced team with budding talents like Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, and Rohit Sharma. Dhoni’s remarkable career-to-date includes victories over South Africa, Australia, England, and New Zealand. Dhoni’s captaincy record is among India’s best, with 27 wins and 18 losses.

#9) Alastair Cook (2008-2014)

A highly-rated middle-order batsman, Cook captained England through one of their most successful periods. He led his country for seven years, starting in 2008 and ending in 2014. Under Cook’s leadership, England won 24 out of 59 tests, losing just 22 tests and drawing thirteen games.

#10) Joe Root (2017-2021)

After taking over from Alastair Cook as a full-time skipper ahead of England’s tour of South Africa in 2017, Joe Root is considered by many to be England’s most successful captain. In his first match as captain, he scored 190 in a single inning and received praise from former captains Ian Botham and Nasser Hussain. Joe Root has played 59 test matches as a captain and won 27 of them. His win-loss ratio is 1.12%.

Most successful captain in Test cricket by number of wins

Player Span Matches Won Lost Draw
Graeme Smith 2003-2014 109 53 29 27
Ricky Ponting 2004-2010 77 48 16 13
Steve Waugh 1999-2004 57 41 9 7
Virat Kohli 2014-2021 67 40 16 11
Clive Lloyd 1974-1985 74 36 12 26
Allan Border 1984-1994 93 32 22 38
Stephen Fleming 1997-2006 80 28 27 25
MS Dhoni 2008-2014 60 27 18 15
Alastair Cook 2010-2016 59 24 22 13
Joe Root 2017-2021 59 27 18 15

Summary

The most successful captains are those who lead by example on and off the field, gain respect from their teammates, and carry with them a determination to ensure success. In test cricket, there have been many captains who have captained sides that have seen great success at the international level, both long-term and short-term. It is no easy feat to be a test captain – it requires calmness under pressure and an understanding of players of different characters. But regardless of past or current performances, there will always be debate over who has led their country to more wins and successes than any other. This list looks back on some of these skippers, ranking them according to each captain’s win percentage as well as an overall number of wins during his tenure.