A small consolation for Steve Smith

During the third SA-Aus Test at Cape Town, SPD Smith perhaps became the first Test captain to be sacked in the middle of a match and told to hand over charge. However, he may draw small consolation from setting a minor fielding record.

These records are as of April 1, 2018. The ICC World XI v Aus Test is not counted.

Most catches in an innings by a captain (5 and above):

Captains-innings fielding

While wicketkeeper captains Latif and Dhoni have taken 6 catches in an innings, Smith equalled the non-keepers record for captains with 5 catches, along with VY Richardson, SP Fleming, GC Smith and DJG Sammy. There are a few non-captain fielders such as Yajurvindra Singh and AM Rahane who have also taken 5 catches in an innings.

We also look at match fielding performances by captains (6 dismissals and above):

Captains-match fielding

While keeper Dhoni has the record of 9 dismissals (in his last Test), SP Fleming has the record of 7 for non-keeper captains. Smith has taken 6 catches in this Test and in one earlier match. In this case Rahane has the record for 8 catches by a non-keeper, though he was not captaining in that Test.

Finally, we look at overall fielding performances by captains (70 dismissals and above):

Captains-overall fielding

While Dhoni has the highest number of dismissals, he is followed by several non-keepers led by GC Smith and SP Fleming who have over a hundred catches. Steve Smith is fairly high up here, sandwiched between MA Taylor and Lara.

 

 

When Test captains are sacked

The ill-starred Test at Cape Town might well be the first one in which a captain was dismissed in the middle of a match and a replacement named immediately. Statisticians will record Smith as captainĀ  since he was “appointed captain” for the match even if he did not end the match as captain. There have been numerous cases when a captain was absent from part of the match due to injury or illness and someone else acted as captain for the remainder-perhaps as much as 4 days out of 5.

One such Test was this one in 2009: http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/13604/scorecard/401071/west-indies-vs-bangladesh-1st-test-bangladesh-tour-of-west-indies-2009

The appointed captain Mashrafe Mortaza missed over half the match due to injury, and Shakib al Hasan substituted for him. Admittedly this was a third XI of the West Indies, but this was still a landmark for Bangladesh as it was only their second Test win (and the first away from home). Shakib was the appointed captain for the second Test, which led to Bangladesh gaining their third Test victory as well as their first series win abroad.

Mortaza never captained Bangladesh in a Test again, and thus the tables show him with one Test as captain and a 100% success rate. Similar examples include Shastri and Rahane, though Rahane may again captain India soon if Kohli is absent for the proposed Test against Afghanistan. And one cannot help wondering if India’s Test performance in the late 80s and early 90s would have been better if Shastri had been the regular captain rather than his contemporaries Vengsarkar, Srikkanth and Azharuddin.

There have been captains sacked in the middle of a series (Gatting in 1988 for off-field activities, and Denness in 1975 for generally poor results capped by an alleged wrong decision after winning the toss at Birmingham). He was replaced by Greig who seemed to have done a better job in ensuring three draws in the next three Tests against Lillee and Thomson in their prime. Later, when Greig was firmly in place as captain he lost his position in early 1977 following the advent of World Series Cricket.

The 1988 home series against the West Indies saw England with four captains in five Tests (Gatting, Emburey, Emburey, Chris Cowdrey and Gooch). So did India in the 1958-59 home series against the West Indies although that story is more complicated.