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Choice of Vaughan justified

Michael Vaughan is set to be appointed England’s one-day captain and, some time after this summer, to succeed Nasser Hussain as Test captain. The selectors’ switch to Vaughan from the heir apparent Marcus Trescothick is a sudden change, and a correct one.

From the moment of his England debut in 2000, Trescothick was identified as a future captain, ahead of Vaughan, his senior by one year. The left-hander was a permanent member of the four-man management group, Vaughan an irregular one; he was physically robust where Vaughan was suspect; and Trescothick was Hussain’s first port of call for tactical input, to the point where Trescothick took over the captaincy when Hussain was absent.

In terms of one-day International cricket too, Trescothick was always ahead of Vaughan. Whereas Vaughan is still a novice — 26 matches, a highest score of 63 and an average of 23 — Trescothick for the last year or two has been the only candidate England would have had for a world one-day XI. His record is immeasurably superior at 2,161 runs, four hundreds, an average of 36 and the brilliant strike-rate of 87 per 100 balls.

So what has happened to make Vaughan leap-frog over Trescothick into the one-day captaincy' The answer is to be found in one of the principles — universal truths perhaps — which Duncan Fletcher laid down when he became England coach: “You can’t make someone captain until he has been through a run of bad form.”

During last winter, after two highly successful years for England, Trescothick suffered such a run. He started well in Brisbane, top-scoring with 72 in the first innings. Thereafter he faded, troubled on the back foot by steeper bounce than he had ever known before, especially from Brett Lee. In his last nine innings he did not make a fifty and in five of them was caught behind by the keeper off pace.

Being bounced out in Australia could happen to anyone, and usually does. What was, if anything, more important was Trescothick’s reaction. Instead of shrugging it off, making a minor adjustment and carrying on, he became ever more introspective. Like Vaughan he has been a cricketer all his life, without interests beyond sport; but Vaughan does not worry and brood so much that he cannot compartmentalise.

Vaughan has become what Darren Gough and Graham Thorpe promised to be but were only fleetingly: a world-class player, England’s first consistently world-class cricketer since the era of Ian Botham, Graham Gooch and David Gower.

Like Hayden at his best, Vaughan is that rarity, a match-winner who is not a bowler. He can score big Test hundreds at 40 runs an hour, giving his bowlers the time and runs they need.

As such, the first priority is that England’s one world-class match-winner should be sustained with whatever it takes. As it is Vaughan’s natural ambition to captain England, after leading England Under-19s and England A, so be it.

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