In dissecting the game it would not be out of place to view Captaincy as the most misunderstood position in the game with your relative ability to a large part being judged upon the performance of the Team you are commandeering.
Win, and you are a hero, but lose, and you are being loaded into the gun.........
Which is so in keeping with the reactionary age we live which so glosses over the real worth of the men calling the shots or alternatively over exaggerates their ability due to the Teams results.
Michael Clarke ( Australia )
He was in truth written off before he took over the role from Ricky Ponting in the wake of the 3/1 Ashes shame. Viewed as being lapse in his care for the game, and at the time of him taking over viewed as being not even worthy of his position in the Team after a long phase of struggles.
How he has shut those critics up in the sincerest manner by representing a leader that has reinvigorated the Aussies into a Team full of enthusiasm and tight as a drum. Which is truly remarkable after seeing how fractured, bloody and beaten beyond redemption they were in the last days of Punta
Even as a player with the extra burden of the pressure he has risen to be arguably the best batsman in Test cricket. Two of his innings in his 60 on a very tough pitch in Galle and then his breath taking 151 against South Africa on an equally tough pitch in Capetown were knocks of the highest calibre
His figures tell of him rising to the challenge
14 Tests, 23 innings, average 60.72, 5 centuries 2 50's
As Non Captain
82 Tests, 135 innings, average 49.45, 19 centuries, 22 50's
In an age of defensive mindsets, Clarke has been a breath of fresh air. He is a calculated risk taker in his tactics with a win at all costs mindset. His fields have been characterised by their charismatic nature and attacking flair coupled with his adventurous bowling changes. Seen indelibly by his use of Nathan Lyon with the support of pro active fields, and then Mike Hussey being made into a very effective part time bowler. That Clarke has expertly used to exploit times where batsmen might lapse.
As seen in the 1st test in Barbados against the West Indies his choice to declare in arrears on the first innings was seen as 'revolutionary' by the fact that is rarely if ever seen in this age.
But he saw a glimpse of a chance and embraced it and with it a remarkable Aussie win
Rating: A+ Grade
Exceptional in all regards, and easily the best in Test Cricket
Misbah ul Haq ( Pakistan )
It is hard to not be in awe of the Pakistani Captain in his time in the role with him taking over the job when it represented a true poison chalice after the Team was brought to its knees in the wake of the 2010 England shame. That saw the Team lose its two brightest stars in the exceptional new ball duo of Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir. Then to make his task all the more difficult his tenure has been stricken by no homes game being allowed for the Team, and the constant intrusion from Shahid Afridi.
This would give most mortals the shakes but Misbah seems to have ice in his veins and real mans balls to go with his silent unshakable belief that has seen him create a Pakistan Team of such worth.
Characterised by their enthusiasm, tightness as a group and will to win that has seen them be undefeated in a series under Misbah culminating in them mauling the number 1 Team England in a 3 nil whitewashed.
Remarkable and even more so when you look at how he has performed as a player while Captaining
15 Tests, 25 innings, average 64.72 ( career average 33.60 ) 1 century, 12 50's
Misbah in my view is an opportunist with his tactics with him being governed by his conservative nature. But his main difference to others with this over riding mindset is that he will attack when he sniffs a chance for an advantage. Seen indelibly against England where he went for the jugular
Rating: A Grade
Inspirational in so many regards with him bringing calm to the perpetually chaotic Pakistan and with it success.
Ross Taylor ( New Zealand )
In truth a breath of fresh air in World Cricket and would be getting the dues that he deserves if not for leading a Team that rarely gets publicity.
He has a very enthusiastic and pro active mindset as seen in his adventurous and avant guarde tactics. Then he has a voice that people follow as seen by him being able to uplift the teams sagging spirits after being belted by Australia to come back and win the 2nd Test ( NZ's 1st win in Australia since 1987) drawing the series 1 all
Very like his Aussie counterpart Clarke, he has risen to the challenge as seen in his play with him averaging 57.88 as Captain compared to 41.12 when he was merely a player
Very attack minded that would come to the fore if he was blessed by a better Team. Though in the remarkable Hobart Test win against Australia his tactics strangled the Aussies and then lead them into temptation and eventual demise
Rating: A Grade-
Excellent man motivator and tactician
Mahela Jayawardene ( Sri Lanka )
It is hard to judge Mahela in his recent return to Captaincy for it has been in a time when it is obvious that all is not well in Sri Lankan Cricket.
As seen in the constant reports of players not being paid and then the aversion to the Captaincy.
Away from this in his first series in charge against England he lead from the front with his stellar batting that saw him dominate the series.
Sadly in this series it was seen that despite times of being on top he failed to grasp opportunities to gain an ascendency with proactive moves. Instead choosing to make it a war of attrition that he hoped he would win by being the last Team standing
Too early to judge, but his defensive ploys as seen in his fields did not inspire hope
Solid leader that needs to be judged over a longer span of time
Mushfiqur Rahim ( Bangladesh )
Inspired choice by the Bangladesh powers that be.
For it seems that this ever smiling glove man is a real man of steele that has an ability to instil some pride in Tigers Cricket
You already saw that in their remarkable Asian Cup win where he not only called out India, but then delivered a hammer blow by making a reality in defeating them.
It is obvious this will be transplanted into the Test arena as already witnessed in a very respectable showing against Pakistan
Has shown great promise
Darren Sammy ( West Indies )
I do not know who has received more unfair victimisation in their time as Captains- either Misbah or Darren Sammy
It seems the fans of the Caribbean cannot accept Sammy's position in the role with them so obsessed with wanting back the mercenary of mercenaries in Chris Gayle. A man that they conveniently forget chose money over the West Indies Cap.......
Away from this sad treatment in his time in the role Sammy has instilled some much needed pride in the Team. Leading it with his big hearted play and principled and patriotic approach. Which has lead a team that is devoid of talent and ravaged by the Indian Premier League play at an acceptable level even despite the defeats.
As a player he has performed well as a bowling all rounder taking 35 wickets at an average of 32.65. Then for the masses who castigate him for his batting ( despite him being a number 8 ) he is 4th on the average list in 2012 for the Team.....
He has inspired a tightness within the group, but has yet struggled to be able to take it to the next level of the group believing that they can not only compete, but be good enough to win.
I see Sammy as a pro active character, but then I think he is made defensive by doubts in the Teams calibre. You saw this recently against Australia where he had a real chance to put the acid on the wobbly Aussies in their run chase, but instead his tactics saw the fields pushed back in the hope the Aussies would gift a win.
Which does not cut it in Test Cricket
You can respect him for his heart and the feel he has instilled in the team, and then excuse him for the weakness in his ranks which allows a B rating
Andrew Strauss ( England )
Strauss is a bit of a tough one to evaluate in the respect that he has been so part of England's rise to the top, but then looked so inadequate when challenged recently.
Making critics cringe at his sit his hands response to the assault as seen as his characteristic defensive demeanour morph into a disturbing null and void choice of inaction as if he was a deer in headlights.
It has not helped with his batting form that has seen him struggle for two years with just an average of 30.92 with only 1267 runs in 41 innings.
That has been glossed over with the team dominating, but has become a main focus with their recent struggles, and must be impacting on him
Very defensive as seen in his run saving above wicket taking fields and ridiculous declarations
A man that is respected by all, but the Team would be better served in looking at a more pro active leader. Then further clouding Strauss's future is that his lapse in batting form is now impacting on the Teams prospects
Graeme Smith ( South Africa )
The South Africa leader is very like Andrew Strauss in that he is respected by all his Team mates and is a great voice within the group, but so ultra defensive in his tactics.
That you could understand if you are leading a team that is devoid of talent, but his side is blessed by so many great players in all facets of the game
Some of his declarations were just bizarre as seen in New Zealand recently when they were stricken by the loss of their Captain and best batsman Ross Taylor. Then worse against India in a deciding Test match at home when his safety first approach bordered on absurd.
Effectively killing any chance his side had to win
Too defensive and out of place in a team so full of great players for with a more proactive leader they would invariably win more
Respected as a player and leader, but kills the Team with how defensive he is
M S Dhoni ( India )
Very like Ricky Ponting in regards to being made to look good by the players he had, but then when his Team was not as strong made to look very very average.
In truth complete rubbish.
Completely nondescript in all regards with this being underlined as his Team got flayed by England and Australia.
He chose to just smile behind the stumps and do nothing symbolised by being clueless when confronted by crisis
Terrible in all regards....
His fields are a cruel joke to bowlers especially spinners who he takes away most of the chances they have to get wickets by having so many on the fence from ball 1 of their spells
Should have been sacked and told that he is not fit for Test Cricket, and then encouraged to retire from it and dominate in the lesser forms of the game ( ODIs/T20 ).
Where he is a star as a leader and one of the best ever as a player