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Top 10 captains with highest win percentage in World Cup history

These captains ruled the tournaments via their teams and thus have achieved a considerable amount of success in terms of high winning percentage.

Ricky Ponting Captains with most man of the match
Ricky Ponting. (© Getty Images)

Despite the notion that cricket is a team game, individual brilliance is paramount for the success of the team. A captain of the team becomes a more important player when he leads in a tournament like the ICC World Cup, as the pressure to win increases multi-fold given the level of competition in the tournament. There have been captains who made their teams dominate the tournaments by sheer individual performances and leadership skills in pressure moments.

Take it Imran Khan and MS Dhoni’s decision to move themselves up the order in the final of the World Cup, or Kapil Dev’s brilliant use of the all-rounders in the 1983 edition, even Allan Border’s management of the young players in 1987 win can be heralded as examples of great captaincy by some of the great minds of the game. These captains ruled the tournaments via their teams and thus have achieved a considerable amount of success in terms of high winning percentage. Today we chronicle ten such amazing leaders in World Cup history.

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Here are the Top 10 captains with highest win percentage in World Cup history (minimum 15 matches captained)

10. Mohammad Azharuddin (India) – 45.45%

Mohammad Azharuddin
Mohammad Azharuddin. (Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images)

Mohammad Azharuddin is the only captain to lead the Indian team in three World Cup tournaments and captained in 23 matches. Known for his calm demeanor, the team saw its best outing in the 1996 edition reaching the semi-finals against Sri Lanka. His other two campaigns came in 1992 and 1999 which saw India failing to reach the semi-finals.

He is the only captain on this list to lose more matches than he has won in the World Cup, losing 12 and winning 10 matches out of 23 skippered with one ending in no result. Azharuddin, as a batsman made 826 runs in 30 matches with a best of 93 runs and eight half-centuries in the tournament.

Azhar was a decently successful captain in his multiple tenures, but his decision to chase after winning the toss in the 1996 World Cup semi-final at the Eden Gardens on a turning pitch, was criticized a lot since Sri Lanka had three good spinners. 

9. Stephen Fleming (New Zealand) – 61.53%

Stephen Fleming
Stephen Fleming. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Stephen Fleming is considered to be one of the best captains in the world, given his success over a long period of time. He captained the Black Caps in 218 games from 1997 to 2007 and also led them in three World Cups in 1999, 2003 and 2007. He skippered in 27 matches across the three editions, winning 16 matches and losing 10, with one no result.

His captaincy style was proactive and had respect from all of his players, making it easy for him to lead them efficiently. His minute changes in the field, innovations and mentoring some young players like Daniel Vettori, Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor made them legends in their own rights.

Apart from leading the team, he also scored 1075 runs in 33 matches with two centuries and five half-centuries to his name in World Cup. Fleming utilized his limited resources to their best abilities and made New Zealand a team that always punched above their weight class. His leadership saw the team become consistently successful in the tournament over the years.

8. Imran Khan (Pakistan) – 63.63%

Imran Khan
Imran Khan. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Imran Khan was a leader of men as despite being injured, he took the Pakistani team to the championship win in 1992 World Cup. Before that, he also led his team to the semi-finals in the 1987 edition. He captained the Pakistani team in 22 matches and won 14 of them, giving him a winning percentage of 63.63.

Khan was also a prolific performer on the grandest stage of them all and scored 666 runs with one century and picked 34 wickets in 28 matches. He had led the team to success in both the 1983 and 1987 World Cup tournaments, as Pakistan reached the semi-finals of both the editions and Imran had retired from the game. But the need and want to become World Cup champions brought him back and his legacy was confirmed once he rallied the Pakistan team despite having a bad start in the 1992 edition, and made them title holders.

7. Graeme Smith (South Africa) -64.70%

Graeme Smith
Graeme Smith. (Photo by Duif du Toit/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Graeme Smith became South Africa’s captain at the young age of 22 years after the 2003 World Cup debacle and led the Proteas in two World Cups in 2007 and 2011. He won 11 out of 17 matches he captained, giving him a winning percentage of 64.70%. Smith captained teams that had players like Jacques Kallis, Makhaya Ntini, Nicky Boje and others who were years his senior, yet gained respect from his teammates and peers alike and became one of the best captains in international cricket.

The left-handed batsman may not have been the best looking and eye-pleasing, but he certainly was effective and he scored 747 runs in 20 World Cup matches with six half-centuries. He made the team believe that they could do it and led them to knockout stages of both the editions he was the captain.

6. Allan Border (Australia) – 68.75%

Allan Border Test
Allan Border, Australia (Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images)

Allan Border captained the Australian team to their first ever World Cup win in 1987 and stamped his authority on the new-look Australian team, which was not even thought of reaching the semi-finals when they arrived in Asia for the tournament. He won 11 matches out of 16 captained giving him a winning percentage of 68.75%.

Allan Border came into the 1987 edition himself believing that the Australian team will be lucky to make it into the semis, with the team he had. The whole setup was in transformation, but Border knew how to get the team together and win matches. And he did that on basis of some cunning strategy and defeated Pakistan in the semi-finals before besting arch-rivals in the finals of the tournament. In the subsequent tournament in 1992, which was played in Australia, Border couldn’t inspire his team enough after some of the key players suffered some injuries and failed to make it to the semi-finals.

5. Kapil Dev (India) – 73.33%

Kapil Dev World Cup News
Kapil Dev. (Photo by Patrick Eagar/Patrick Eagar Collection via Getty Images)

Kapil Dev was the youngest captain to win the World Cup at the age of 24, when he lifted the trophy in 1983 above his head in the Lord’s balcony, earning himself a spot in the glorious history of the tournament. He captained India in 15 World Cup matches, winning 11, earning him a winning percentage of 73.33%.

Kapil was making just his second appearance in ICC event but managed to inspire the team enough to beat West Indies in Manchester in league stages, gaining confidence and subsequently beating them again in what can be considered the biggest upset in World Cup history.

Kapil Dev scored the first ODI century for India when he hit 175* against Zimbabwe in a league match to rescue the team from 17/5 and put India on a winning path. It was also the first time an Indian batsman held the record for the highest individual ODI score. Kapil also led India to the semi-finals of the 1987 edition, proving himself to be a capable captain, who led from the front. He might not have been the most innovative or thinking out of the box skipper, but he did the small things right and gave confidence to his players that they could conquer the world and they did.

4. Hansie Cronje (South Africa) – 76.66%

Hansie Cronje, World Cup
Hansie Cronje. (Photo by Getty Images)

Hansie Cronje was one of the greatest captains seen in the game before he destroyed his legacy with his involvement in the match-fixing scandal and then sadly passed away at the age of 32 years in 2002. Cronje led the South African team in two World Cup tournaments in 1996 and 1999 and took the team to quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively.

He won 11 out of 15 games skippered and has a winning percentage of 76.66%. He also scored 476 runs in 23 games with two half-centuries. He was the heir apparent when Kepler Wessels stepped down in 1994 and made the Proteas team invincible during the 1990s whether at home or away from it in both ODIs and Tests.

He was the first captain to try the innovation of having the earphone taped to his ear, where he could receive instructions from coach Bob Woolmer during the 1999 World Cup, a practice that was abandoned very quickly. He was also a brilliant man manager given he had some characters in his team and he gave them the freedom to express themselves and we saw what Lance Klusener did in that tournament.

3. MS Dhoni (India) – 85.29%

MS Dhoni
MS Dhoni. (Photo by Stu Forster-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)

MS Dhoni has been hailed as the greatest captain to lead the Indian team ever and he proved his credentials right by winning the ICC World T20 in 2007. When he led the Indian team in the 2011 World Cup, the Men in Blue were under tremendous pressure given that the tournament was held in their own backyard.

Dhoni used his resources amazingly well and his trump card was using Yuvraj Singh as a proper all-rounder throughout the tournament, as it gave him the chance to play an extra batsman or bowler according to situations. He made Ashwin open the bowling in a couple of matches and brought in Suresh Raina for the important matches in the later half of the 2011 World cup.

However, he prevailed and came good in the final, making 91* and hitting that six which won his team the final against Sri Lanka and India became the world champions for the second time, after a period of 28 years. He then led the Indian team to the semi-finals of the subsequent 2015 edition of ICC event. In all, he won 14 games out of 17, lost two and one match ended in a tie, giving him a win percentage of 85.29.

2. Clive Lloyd (West Indies) – 88.23%

Clive Lloyd
Clive Lloyd. (© Getty Images)

Clive Lloyd made the West Indies team a juggernaut in the 1970s and 80s and the evidence of his amazing captaincy and team’s dominance was that the Caribbean team won the first two editions of the World Cup in 1975 and 1979. He captained the team in 1983 World Cup as well, leading the team to the finals. He had perhaps one of the most talented teams at his disposal, which had been chosen by him, united by his amazing charisma and he transformed into world beaters.

In all, he won 15 matches out of 17, losing both times to India in 1983 edition, which gave him the winning percentage of 88.23%. He made 393 runs in 17 matches in World Cup, scoring a match-winning century in the 1975 finals. Lloyd knew the potential of Viv Richards, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, and others and utilized them properly where they could give their best and the result was the first dynasty of cricket-  the era of West Indies.

1. Ricky Ponting (Australia) – 92.85%

Captains with most ODI centuries
Ricky Ponting. (© Getty Images)

Ricky Ponting led an Australian team which left the Windies team of the 70s behind in World Cup domination as they went unbeaten through two editions of the tournament. He won the World Cup in 2003 and 2007 as captain and has a winning percentage of 92.85% with 26 wins in 29 matches.

Ricky Ponting, in both the World Cups he captained, had at his disposal perhaps the greatest players in world cricket at that time, who knew their roles and game to the tee. He just set strategies and let the players do their stuff, which made Australia a great team to watch. He was tactically astute and his field positions were immaculate for opposition batsmen.

Ponting himself led from the front with the bat, scoring a match-winning century against India in the 2003 World Cup final and the 2011 quarter-finals against the same team. He scored 1743 runs in 46 World Cup matches with 5 centuries and 6 half-centuries. He is inarguably the best captain in World Cup history.

The concept for this post might have been inspired by an article that was submitted to us over email but was rejected.

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