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Nasser made the right decision

Usually the Ashes bring England captains down but after another early bath in the World Cup following his side’s failure to qualify for the Super Six stage, Nasser Hussain resigned as his country’s oneday leader, though not as Test captain, a position he still claims to cherish.

“I feel it is in the best interests of England’s oneday side if I stand down as oneday captain,” said Hussain, who also said he would be retiring from international oneday cricket, in Port Elizabeth Tuesday. “Although I firmly believe England are a better side with me as captain, I also believe I don’t warrant my place in the side any more, and I am an honourable man.”

Hussain’s assessment that England are better with him as captain is accurate against all countries bar Australia, against whom he seeks respect to the point where his forensic mind becomes overwrought. Some critics feel he should never have been in England’s oneday side, a barb he felt when he gesticulated to the press box after making his first oneday hundred at Lord’s last summer.

Although his oneday career spanned 89 matches, it was boosted when the selectors decided to persist with having one captain for Test and oneday cricket after dividing the role a few years earlier. Splitting the roles may happen again if Hussain gets his wish to continue leading England in the longer game. “I would like to carry on as Test captain though, if the selectors want me still to do that, but I wish to take myself off the panel for a couple of months. I would like to play in a hundred Test matches and lead England in them for some time to come.”

For a man who gives the job his very soul, it is the right decision. Yet if eyes are firmly on the ball, England and their captain were eliminated not by Robert Mugabe’s henchmen but by a lost chance against Australia, a missed match in Harare and some unseasonal rain in Bulawayo, where Pakistan played Zimbabwe Tuesday.

A lethal trident they proved too. But while the first two were in the players’ hands, the last was not, a prosaic fate that gave Zimbabwe the two points needed to pip England to the second stage of the tournament.

With the first batch of the summer’s 13 oneday Internationals due to be played in 10 weeks’ time, the search for a oneday successor will have to begin soon. Candidates as committed and wily as Hussain, 35 on March 28, do not instantly spring to mind.

Of the squad here, Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan would be the frontrunners with Adam Hollioake and Paul Collingwood the sensible outsiders. Hussain’s only request, in public at least, is that his successor be young enough to grow with the job, which would seem to rule out Hollioake, who is 31, though not necessarily with the selectors. “There have to be some players under 30 who have a strikerate better than 67 who can come in,” he said.

The past few months, following the pounding England took in Australia and again in numerous meetings over Zimbabwe, have drained Hussain physically and mentally and he intends to take two months off.

The rain in Bulawayo, as in Durban where South Africa went out the previous night, was simply cruel luck. But while that may have been the trigger, Hussain’s intransigent stance on Zimbabwe was always going to make his position untenable were England to get knocked out before the second stage.

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