The most impressive captains of IPL 2017
Mumbai Indians created history by winning the Indian Premier League for a record third time after they trumped Rising Pune Supergiant by one run in Hyderabad last week.Nobody gave them a chance at the half way point in the summit clash as they were defending a paltry 129 after a brilliant bowling performance from the Pune bowlers. But, riding on Rohit Sharma’s brilliant captaincy, Mumbai pulled off a brilliant heist to rob Pune off their maiden IPL title.At one point of the night, Steve Smith’s men were racing towards the target but they faltered once the Australian fell for a hard fought 51 in the last over. therefore, losing by just one run.Captaincy has actually been the highlight of this season, with some remarkable tactics up for display by the various captains across the eight franchises. From leading with the bat to being brilliant on the field, most of the teams rode on some dazzling captaincy and Mumbai’s surprising victory from the jaws of defeat once again showed how much of a difference a captain can make.So, here is a look at the top five captain’s from IPL 2017 and how they led their teams from the front:ROHIT SHARMA – MUMBAI INDIANSRohit became the first player to win the IPL four times. Once as a player and three times as a captain. He won his first title with Deccan Chargers and the other three with Mumbai Indians to eclipse Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the most successful captain. Dhoni had led Chennai Super Kings to the IPL title twice.advertisementThe stylish right-hander played some important knocks and scored 333 runs, hitting three fifties. His 24-ball 26 in the second qualifier against Kolkata Knight Riders, played a crucial role in Mumbai’s qualification. MI lost early wickets in their chase of 108 and he along with Krunal Pandya steadied the ship before Krunal bagged the game for the eventual champions in the 15th over. Rohit also breached the 4000-run mark this season, becoming only the fifth player to do so. Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Gautam Gambhir and David Warner are the other four. While his batting might not have been as impressive as the yesteryears, his maturity as a captain and ability to think was one of the highlights of the season. It helped Mumbai Indians win 10 of their 14 group matches.Throughout this season, Mumbai looked a strong and settled group. Be it bowling or batting, they had a plan in place always and a fall-back plan too and the captain used them to perfection. Rohit’s bowling changes and field placements were brilliant. He made sure there was no easy run up for grabs and you earn them throughout the tournament and it was finally up for show in the final when Mumbai strangled Pune in their chase of 130.STEVE SMITH – RISING PUNE SUPERGIANTSteve Smith left India with his pride intact even after Rising Pune Supergiant went down in a thrilling IPL final against Mumbai Indians. He tried valiantly but his 51 was not enough to secure victory for RPS, who played their final IPL and won hearts across the nation.Smith, who was appointed Pune captain, in place of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, did a fantastic job for the franchise. He took Pune to the final in the second and (also their last year) in the IPL.Smith came into the IPL facing a tough challenge ahead of him. He had to turn the tide for a side that finished seventh last season. RPS bought Ben Stokes and big things were expected from him. The franchise lost a big player in Ravichandran Ashwin but they brought in Imran Tahir and that turned out to be a masterstroke going into the tournament. He had to handle some big names in Dhoni, Stokes, Imran Tahir, Faf du Plessis and he managed to do a fabulous job. As the tournament progressed, he worked well with Dhoni — forming an integral partnership with him, that made Pune’s fortunes and turned them into a confident team.The New South Wales batsman not only had the backing of the owners, who took a brave call ahead of the tournament but also the players, who only had good words to say about their captain.On a personal note as well, Smith had a decent tournament. He has amassed 472 runs in 15 matches so far at 42.90 with three half-centuries and is fifth on the list of highest run-getters this season.But a key part of his captaincy has been the immense trust he showed on the young Indian bowlers. Jaydev Unadkat, Shardul Thakur and the 17-year-old Washington Sundar were the architects of Pune’s success and a lot of credit should go to the Australian for sticking to them. Unadkat, finished as the second highest wicket taker in this year’s IPL with 24 wickets while Thakur and Sundar grabbed 11 and eight wickets respectively.advertisementHe almost took Pune to their maiden title as well but fell short in their chase of 11 in the last over after handing a catch to Ambati Rayudu of the bowling off Mitchell Johnson.GAUTAM GAMBHIR – KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERSHe is a veteran in every sense and has been performing for his team for the last six years. Gambhir has been a rock at the top of the order for KKR and a general on the field, marshalling his troops to perfection.The Delhi batsman led from the front with the bat, scoring 498 runs from 16 matches. He started the tournament with a brilliant 76* against the Gujarat Lions and kicked on from there. The 35-year-old had always been a great tactician and a master at playing mind games and putting pressure on the new batsmen. Nobody can forget what he did last season when MS Dhoni came into bat at the Eden Gardens — Before Dhoni could realise, he was surrounded with five fielders around the bat.This season was no different. His master stoke to push Sunil Narine up the order once Chris Lynn got injured was an instant hit and benefitted them greatly. Once Lynn was back, he dropped down the order, showing great team spirit — a highlight of his career.Kolkata might not have lifted their third title this season but Gambhir’s passion, dedication and thinking has not only won hearts yet again but also established the fact that he can be down but never out.DAVID WARNER – SUNRISERS HYDERABADWarner, who started his Indian summer on a low in the four-match Test series against India, showed everyone yet again why he is one of the most dangerous batsmen in the shortest format of the game.The 30-year-old slammed 641 runs from 14 games and bagged the Orange Cap. This comes after a massive 848-run season last year, which was not enough to get him the honour, thanks to Virat Kohli’s monstrous 973 runs.The southpaw started off slowly but got back to his brutal self once the tournament progressed. He hit a 59-ball 126 against the Kolkata to put up a spectacle in an all important clash at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. He hit four fifties and a century in this season’s IPL.But just like his Australian captain, Warner’s captaincy on the field has been lauded more than his batting. Much like Smith, his faith on the Indian youngsters was instrumental in SRH’s eliminator run.Siddarth Kaul and Mohammed Siraj were the stars for Hyderabad as they kept troubling the batsmen with their pace and skiddy nature. He also used Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who again finished as the Purple Cap holder, with 26 wickets and young Rashid Khan to great effect.advertisementWarner-led Sunrisers were knocked out in the eliminators by KKR in a rain-curtailed match at Bengaluru but the spirit the squad showed has to be lauded.GLENN MAXWELL – KINGS XI PUNJABMaxwell has been the least impressive of the above lot. He has just scored 310 runs from 14 games for the franchise this year.He started off well, getting some explosive 30s and 40s but as the tournament progressed, he fizzled out, much like his team.’BigShow’ as he is called failed to put up a show when his team needed him the most. After Hashim Amla (420), their leading scorer left, playing 13 matches, the onus was on him to take Punjab to the qualifiers. People thought he will come up and deliver but Maxwell kept pushing himself down the order when his team needed him the most in their do or die match against the Rising Pune Supergiant in Pune. He came in at No. 6 and was out in the second ball, leaving Punjab reeling at 5/32.His poor show came in for criticism from their team mentor Virender Sehwag, who slammed Maxwell for showing little or no responsibility when the team needed the senior batsman to step up.Punjab did enjoy a late surge towards the end of tournament, almost managing to qualify for the eliminator but their dismal show against RPS, made sure they finish on fifth with 14 points on the table, capping off another disappointing season.