Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Leading with the head

One for the purists
In the aftermath of the most dispiriting winter tour that I can remember (I wasn't really concetrating on the 85/6 blackwash tour) England have recalled the most elegant batsman in England to be their captain for the one-day tour and World Cup. Having not played Test cricket for over a year, and never having been a particularly effective one-day player, Michael Vaughan might have been considered an odd choice: a team struggling to make runs and take wickets recalls a man out of any sort of form with a long injury list. I think, however, that England have done precisely the right thing.
For the stength of Michael Vaughan is not simply to be found in his beautifully elegant and pure cover driving, nor his swivel-pulls over midwicket. Vaughan is also the best captain in world cricket, with only one possible rival in Stephen Fleming of New Zealand. I argued before the Ashes that the captain's role ought to have gone to Andrew Strauss, who displayed much better captaincy in the summer, and didn't have the stress of the all-rounder spot to cope with. I'm too down to feel particularly vindicated, and England would have lost in any case, but the recall of a captain picked primarily for his captaincy abilities is evidence that the England set up have remembered that the captain is, in effect, already an all-rounder.
In the far-off days of 2005, England just out-bowled Australia, matched them with the bat and, crucially, distinctly out-generalled them. Ponting was made to look like an extraordinary batsman and an ordinary captain. Just as you should always pick the bowlers most likely to take wickets (and then as Michael Atherton says make sure they get good enough to score runs), you should almost always pick the best wicket keeper available and you should, if possible, pick the man with the best captaincy skills as captain. This winter, England not only did not pick the best captain for their team, they didn't even pick the best captain in their team. Lets just hope to goodness that Vaughan's knee can stand up to three more years of Test cricket...

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