It is not easy to lead a side in the Indian Premier League as it requires lot of experience and knowledge about the players in the squad. The captain of any franchise has to be well aware about the strength and weaknesses of his opponents and he has to make sure that players are properly used during the course of any game. There have been instances in the cash rich league where players have played lot of games before leading a side for the first time. The list is full of Indian players when it comes to captaining a side for the first time after playing most number of matches.

Ajinkya Rahane (Rising Pune Supergiant) – 97 matches

Rahane was widely regarded as not being a Twenty20 player going into 2012 Indian Premier League, but had a superb season for Rajasthan Royals. Previously he was in the Mumbai Indians squads and got limited opportunities. And then, he caught the eye of Rajasthan Royals’ Shane Watson. Rahane has had a successful stint with Rajasthan Royals so far, playing under Rahul Dravid’s mentorship. Rahane rose to prominence in the Premier League world in 2012 season for Rajasthan Royals. Over the years, Rahul Dravid has been given a lot of credit for the way Rahane has matured as a player. With Dravid guiding him, Rahane has transformed from a shy, long-format specialist into a player capable of batting at any position, in any format. When Rajasthan Royals was banned for two years by the BCCI, he went on to join Rising Pune Supergiants. In the ongoing Indian Premier League, Steve Smith, the regular captain of the team, was sick and hence Rahane was asked to lead the side against Delhi Daredevils. It took him 97 matches to be elevated to a captaincy role.

Murali Vijay (Kings XI Punjab) – 92 matches

Murali Vijay played for IPL franchise from his home town Chennai Super Kings till the sixth edition and represented Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab in the slam bang league. He was one of the key performers for Chennai in the 3rd edition of IPL in 2010 when Chennai were crowned champions. His first century for Chennai Super Kings was in the third season of the IPL where he scored 127 runs of 56 balls against the Rajasthan Royals. He was awarded the Man of the Match. In the fourth season of IPL, he was retained by the Chennai Super Kings. Later he was awarded the man of the match in finals and helped Chennai Super Kings to win the IPL trophy for the second time in a row. He scored 95 of 52 balls with 4 fours and 6 sixes with a blistering strike rate of 183. In the IPL 2014 Auction held in February, he was sold to Delhi Daredevils for Rs 5 crores. In April 2016, Vijay was named captain of Kings XI Punjab replacing South African David Miller in middle of the season. He had already played 92 games before leading any franchise for the first time.

Rohit Sharma (Mumbai Indians) – 84 matches

Rohit Sharma is one of the most successful players in IPL. He has one IPL century and a hat-trick to his name. Sharma was signed up by the Deccan Chargers franchise for a sum of US$750,000 a year in 2008. He was one of the leading run scorers in the 2008 IPL season with 404 runs. In a match against Kolkata Knight Riders where 21 was required off the last over, Sharma scored 26 off the over from Mashrafe Mortaza to seal a win. He was the fifth bowler to take an IPL hat-trick and was awarded the best U-23 player of the tournament. In the 2011 IPL auction, he was sold for US$ 2million to the Mumbai Indians. He was later promoted as the permanent captain of the Mumbai Indians in the 2013 season as Ricky Ponting was benched due to poor form. Mumbai Indians under his captaincy won the IPL for the first time. It was a terrific season for him as a captain as he helped Mumbai Indians to win the IPL as well as the Champions League T20 in 2013. He had already played 84 IPL matches before leading Mumbai Indians for the first time and hasn’t looked back since then.

Zaheer Khan (Delhi Daredevils) – 77 matches

The backbone of India’s pace attack for over a decade, Zaheer Khan is one of the best left-arm seamers in the world. After starting out as a tear-away fast bowler, he continued to reinvent himself through several bouts of injuries. The finest moment of the pacer’s limited overs international career was when he won India the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup as the team’s highest wicket-taker. He excelled not only in the art of swing bowling but also reveled in utilizing reverse swing to trap the batsman. Zaheer, who has in the past represented Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians, admirably led the Delhi Daredevils in the ninth season. He took over the mantle from South African all-rounder JP Duminy but not before playing 77 matches in the league. He has performed well for his teams, taking wickets in crucial matches. The best part about his bowling in the Indian Premier League has been his variations, which he has used to his advantage against the best in business. It won’t be easy for anyone to replace him as he knows how to contain a batsman in a format, which is famous for brutal hitting from the batters.

Shikhar Dhawan (Sunrisers Hyderabad) – 68 matches

He played for the Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League and made 4 half centuries. He was also the third highest scorer of the Delhi Daredevils team. He was traded to the Mumbai Indians in exchange for Ashish Nehra. He has played for the Mumbai Indians in the second and third season of the IPL. For the fourth season he was bought by the Deccan Chargers for $300,000. He was selected captain of the Sunrisers Hyderabad team prior to the start of the 2013 Champions League Twenty20 tournament and even led the side in the Indian Premier League in 2014. The left hand batsman made his captaincy debut in the IPL after playing 68 matches for his franchise. However, he was replaced by Darren Sammy on account of poor captaincy record. He won the 2016 Indian Premier League with Sunrisers Hyderabad after putting strong batting performances alongside Captain David Warner, scoring 501 runs in 17 matches at an average of 38.53 in the tournament. He is one of the most important members of the side and his presence is enough to boost the confidence of Sunrisers Hyderabad.

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