Athers to Nasser via Stewart; from hopeless misery to miserable hope.
The first England captain I can remember watching was Michael Atherton. Uninspiring to a tee, there was still something comforting in his dour & stubborn approach to leadership, which was an unruffleable tussle with the mediocre-at-best period English cricket found itself slumped in. Athers solidity and defiance was certainly heroic, yet he was obviously no hero. Best remembered for dodging Allan Donald propelled leather missiles and the occasional match-saving vigil, Atherton never came close to giving the impression that he was capable of transforming England’s woes. In fact his team were collectively rather useless, and although I enjoy his mutterings as a commentator and nostalgia wants me to remember him as a captain who showed grace, grit and humility under intense pressures, I just can’t ignore the stats: England won less than 27% of the Tests in which he played.
Whilst Atherton was often crabby and cantankerous, there won’t be many people who dislike his successor, Alec Stewart. A selfless performer whose average suffered through him taking the gloves, Stewart was dealt a similar hand to Atherton and lasted less than a year. Memorable highlights include a 2-1 victory against South Africa, and the traditionally shambolic England ODI World Cup campaign which led to his sacking in 1999. Stewart now writes a fairly tedious BBC column.
Picking up the pieces was Nasser Hussain. Booed by his own supporters at the Oval after defeat to New Zealand in his first series made England officially the bottom ranked team in the world, Hussain nevertheless heralded a resurgance in English cricket (a renaiss-er-ance? ren-huss-ance? Nope, can’t get that to work). He whipped England into a unit with a game plan and a platform for future success. His partnership with coach Duncan Fletcher saw stunning victories on the subcontinent against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, as well as the first victory over the West Indies for the best part of 30 years. However, a terrible record against Australia, including the nightmare inducing, worst ‘toss’ decision I’ve ever seen at the Gabba (Australia 300/1 after being put in), ensures that Nasser will remain respected for the work he did, but not remembered as a great leader. Nasser currently banters with the rest of the SKY commentators, best seen in this clip: