After the overwhelming success of Part I which covered the tenures of Athers, Nassers and Stewie (found >here<), I’ve found that it has been something of an effort to stir myself to write about the more recent Test captains of England. It’s not that there is nothing to talk about, indeed it was rare that there isn’t some incident or other to discuss in cricket. It’s just that, well, I can’t find very much funny about it. The 1990’s was a decade with brave defeats, rare wins, regular thumpings, rabbits at 7, and no obvious structure or gameplan. It all got a bit serious during the Hussain/Fletcher tenure, and that has continued even with changes of captaincy and coach through the new millenium. Anyway, in forming this paragraph, I’ve decided to rank my favourites (note, not the best) in order thus far:
1. Atherton 2. Hussain 3. Stewart.
So: mid 2003…Where were we: Hussain was a serious competitor who was just never quite talented enough to ever lead England to anything above a combative station somewhere above the mid-table of Test cricket. He was incapable of inspiring heights where England became the best, even for a moment, and thus incapable of true glory. His drill was replaced for the flair of Michael Vaughan. Picked because of the Ashes tour Down Under where no-one could get him out unless he was already in his 190s, Vaughan had already shown something Hussain had not – the ability to remain unfazed by the Juggernaut/Galactico/downright horrible Australian side.
The stats paint a pretty decent picture for Vaughan; he captained England in 51 Tests and won 26 of them, losing just 11. This included winning all 7 of the home summer Tests in 2004, the first England series victory in the Carribean since men were men, and the first England series victory in South Africa since men were monkeys. Most famously, however, it was the 2005 Ashes series for which he will be remembered as captain. England won 2-1 against the most well-rounded side in Test Cricket history (well, I’d put them equal with the Windies of the 70s-80s in terms of overall biffiness anyway) and the heights hit by some (Flintoff, Pietersen and Simon Jones stand out) were stuff of legend.
What was more remarkable were the performances of players like Geraint Jones, Ashley Giles and Matthew Hoggard – generally solid players who found another level. I think it is this that Vaughan was good at, man-managing his charges to perform above themselves and in line with his aggressive fields. English cricket was exciting, it was competitive, it had dodgy South African and Australian imports in it, Ashley Giles was the King of Spain, and it was winning the Ashes!
However, as much as I liked watching his team play, and his off-drive was dreamier than double cream, Vaughan as a bloke is pretty dour. His tears on his resignation (“anyone got a tissue?”) were strange. His haircut was a pre comb-over; mopped over the centre to nowhere in particular in preparation for 30 years down the line when he’ll be slightly balder. He now spends his time in the commentary box, struggling to fit in with the banter of the rest of the team, and riling up Indian fans on Twitter. In short, he’s morphing into Geoffrey Boycott in the way that David Gower is morphing into Richie Benaud.
I don’t know where to place him in the aforementioned list. His team was edgy, we won quite a few games. He was weird, cried, and has started using the phrase “my grandmother could have done better than that“. So I’ll put him above Stewart, who bored me, and Hussain. Below Athers. There’s something special about your first one. Wink wink.
In the next part of the series, I’ll look at Flintoff, Pietersen, and Strauss. Or I’ll get bored like I just have, and stop somewhere in between instead…