Overseas captains in the IPL

Why it doesn't work.

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I wrote a piece for ESPNcricinfo on Eoin Morgan and captains that I shared on the weekend. It was using Morgan to tell a bigger story about leadership, but along the way I stumbled into another topic about overseas captains in the IPL.

Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Sanju Samson, Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul and MS Dhoni are the local captains. 

Hyderabad are on their second overseas leader, starting with Warner, moving to Williamson. But there is obviously Eoin Morgan at Kolkata as well. 

And it's the overseas captains I got very interested in with a few conversations with people in the game, including Joe Harris, the former Bangalore analyst. But to get there, let's start with overseas players who could even captain- high usage players in the IPL. 

For batting, I looked at anyone with over 150 runs as of 01 October. 

Two of the top 14 are overseas players. This year is weirder than others, so players like Buttler and Bairstow might have ended up higher, but they didn't come back, and they didn't because they are overseas players, which is part of the reason they're not ideal captains. 

The top five wicket-takers are Indian too, but there are a lot more overseas bowlers in this list. But this list is largely pointless, as not one captain in the IPL is a bowler. 

But these two here give us the chance to work out who the elite overseas players are this year. 

Chris Morris

Rashid Khan

Kagiso Rabada

Mustafizur Rahman

Andre Russell

Dwayne Bravo

Trent Boult

Jason Holder

Kyle Jamieson

Pat Cummins

Sam Curran

Sunil Narine

Lockie Ferguson

Josh Hazlewood

Anrich Nortje 

Chris Woakes

Kieron Pollard

Lungi Ngidi 

Moeen Ali 

Faf du Plessis 

Glenn Maxwell

Quinton de Kock 

Jos Buttler

Jonny Bairstow

AB de Villiers

Kane Williamson

David Warner

Chris Gayle

So from this list we can instantly take out just a bunch of these names. Obviously specialist bowlers can go, because that will not happen, so they're gone. 

Rashid Khan

Andre Russell

Kieron Pollard

Moeen Ali 

Faf du Plessis 

Glenn Maxwell

Quinton de Kock 

AB de Villiers

So now we need to delete all the people who have been dropped in the last year. Or those who missed the start of the season. Or they didn't play the entire year for whatever reason other than injury. Now, look at what we have left.  

Rashid Khan

Andre Russell

Kieron Pollard

Moeen Ali 

Faf du Plessis 

Glenn Maxwell

Quinton de Kock 

AB de Villiers

After my culling, this is the shortlist for overseas players who can captain. But I have one more criteria; I think players who captain as an overseas need to be an automatic pick. And not all these players are. So let's go through the ones who aren't. 

Dre Russ isn't, mostly because of his knees. You can't assume he's playing all season, and the rest of his body breaks down too. He has to be rested; he is undroppable, but not unrestable.

Moeen has had an outstanding season, but this is his first full year of the IPL. So he's out. 

Faf has been a strange IPL player. Last two years he's put up incredible numbers, but he really hasn't had years like this before, he's certainly not undroppable. 

Maxwell is one of the great T20 players we've had, but not in the IPL, he's as likely to average under 20 as over it. 

De Kock is a top-quality t20 player, but this year there's always a chance they would have dropped him if Ishan Kishan was making runs Three years back he was struggling to get a game. 

Rashid Khan

AB de Villiers 

Kieron Pollard

So that leaves us with two absolute dead cert overseas players, one guy who gets injured and Pollard, who was dropped in 2018. Rashid will not captain for a while, although you can see how a team might use him. And AB de Villiers will not captain unless really needed. Pollard captained last year, and of these three is the most likely choice, but they dropped Pollard in 2018. I would say he's been undroppable since, but I think he's more on the edge. 

So these are the four safest candidates to captain an IPL team as an overseas, and outside of this, I would rate everyone else a risk. There just haven't been many long-running overseas players who play every game in the IPL. The league is not set up for that to be the case. 

But even coming into this year, I might have had David Warner on this list. He's won a title with the Sunrisers, and has the most runs in the tournament since 2014 - even though he missed a year. He was pretty safe, and he didn't make it all the way through this season.

And it's in Warner's story it's worth talking about. Because the Sunrisers was a weird tale. This was their first real down season in six years; their problems ran pretty deep. Four of the best players went off a cliff. They struggled with the ball, their top three were going nowhere, they have no middle order and they needed to get an all rounder into the side.  

But let's look at the obvious, Warner was their captain, and was in poor form. But I am less interested in him than I am the other players. In the squad were Kane Williamson Jonny Bairstow, Manish Pandey, Jason Roy and Wriddhiman Saha. That means they had six front line openers. They had more talent in that position than any other. So if they had to change the rest of the team, dropping an even in form Warner, would make the most sense as they wouldn't lose much to whoever his replacement is. The problem comes from him being captain.

Let's look at Rajasthan. Their captain Sanju Samson is in great form, but let's imagine he isn't. In order to replace Samson in the eleven, who would the next most likely player be? Lomror has just been dropped, Shivam Dube has struggled for IPL runs (though as he showed the other night, he can hit), and Anuj Rawat hasn't made an IPL run yet. Even if his spot is replaced by an overseas player, his spot still needs to be filled by a local player.

It's going to be very rare for a team to have an Indian player outside the eleven who is anywhere near the level of a local captain. If Samson is an nine out of ten player, not of his replacements are even fives. 

Let's say that peak Warner was a 10, well his replacements could be Williamson or Bairstow at eight, or Roy a 7. 

It's the same for Eoin Morgan at Kolkata. You could say he's a 7 out of ten number 4/5 in this league, but his potential replacements of Seifert, Cutting and Shakib are all between 4 and 6. The gap between an overseas player in your team and out of your team is always going to be far less than one of your best Indian talents and a fringe local player.

The other important thing is the flexibility the overseas players give you.

Your local captain may lose form the same as any overseas player. T20 fluctuates wildly in that way. But they are not likely to be dropped midseason. You would never rotate them out for team balance either.  

They might still not want the captaincy, like Dinesh Karthik standing down midseason. And if a captain loses eight straight games they Ould be sacked as well. But those things can happen to overseas captains too. But overseas captains have more issues to begin with. 

Eoin Morgan's team would be better with Shakib or Cutting in it right now. And it's not just about being better; overseas players allow you incredible flexibility in your team. Chennai can use Sam Curran when they want more batting and have a good match up for left-arm seam. They can use Hazlewood when they want a top power-play bowler, and there is Bravo for the death overs and extra hitting.

That's kind of how overseas players should work, outside of absolute legends. It should fill in a vacant hole or give extra flexibility. You can be as careful as you like picking an overseas captain, and even through no fault of their own, they cause problems. 

That doesn't mean you won't win the title with one, as has happened before, but you need to factor it in because by just picking an overseas captain, it's possible you won't be able to then pick your best XI for each match. 

Some teams will think that is worth it; others won't.

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