Monday, August 04, 2008

Oh captain my captain

It is no surprise that Michael Vaughan and Paul Collingwood have given it up – it is not easy captaining the English cricket team in today’s era. The demands are just impossible.

To begin with, the selectors, the media, the public all want their captain to score runs. Where would they have found Mike Brearley if that had been the condition in the 1970s? Or Mike Denness before him? Even Vaughan resigned because such inhuman demands were placed on him. There’s one of two things he can do: pat his bowlers in the back after grounding yet another catch or launch into a flowing cover drive. Which would make a bigger difference to his team’s fortunes you think?

The media in particular (and we know how they rule the selectors’ minds, don’t we?) wants the captain to be kind to their representatives as well. So when Vaughan questions the cricketing records of a journalist, he’s pilloried. There’s no place for a candid captain nowadays, is there? Now who else does this expectation rule out?

As I write this piece, national selector Geoff Miller comes up with a new demand: he wants one person for both the test and the limited overs captaincy. It’s a shame on Andrew Strauss, isn’t it? May be he can offer to keep wickets in one-dayers. He does have a successful precedent in India’s Rahul Dravid, doesn’t he?

Some sections of stakeholders (selectors, officials, media, the public, the blogerati, the neighbourhood dog) are beginning to ask for experience in a captain as well. Come now, imagine the kind of people whose services England would have lost out if such a silly demand had been taken seriously in the past – Tony Lewis and Chris Cowdrey are just two illustrious names I would like to mention. I fear we may have lost the services of that wizard, Robert Key, for good (or bad, come to think of it). Alastair Cook, as an extension of the same logic, may be deemed too green just now.

Finally, and this is surely the work of a Tony Greig baiter, there are ear-splitting whispers that the selectors should stick to true Englishmen as captains, not people who adopted England as their country. So that puts paid to the hopes of Kevin Pietersen – he can win matches for England with his bat, no problem, but he can’t use his brains to lead them to victory. The English have a nation to defend, what is a few losses on the field?

So who does that leave us with? Andrew Flintoff? Will he behave with the media? Ian Bell? Isn’t he likely to be too aggressive? Ryan Sidebottom? Now why is no one talking of his candidature?

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