The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
England captaincy enough to drive one mad

He didn’t put it quite as graphically as Graham Gooch, but the feeling was the same. “Farting against thunder” was how Gooch described it when he reached for the revolver, and when Nasser Hussain found himself in charge of a bowling attack which appeared to have been selected at random from a corporate hospitality tent, he must have felt like a man watching an electrical storm rolling in, armed only with a can of baked beans.

The England captaincy is a bit like the country’s licensing laws. Drink and be merry (or in one or two cases, drink and be miserable) while you can because eventually the landlord is going to call time. It’s just a question of whether you get off home of your own volition, or whether you hang on until someone says: “Come on now. Haven’t you got a home to go to'”

Hussain took the latter course because, as ever, he gave himself a straight answer to a straight question. When he’s no longer needed as a batsman, he said: “I’ll go off and do something else.” But it won’t be a career in politics. If all politicians were like Hussain, John Humphreys would probably resign as well. “Are you up to it anymore, Nasser'” he asked himself. And the answer came back: “No.”

He took the same hard look at himself that Gooch did shortly before the Test match — against Australia at Headingley in 1993 — that prompted him to vacate the officers’ mess and return to the ranks. “If I look more miserable than normal,” Gooch said, “it’s because I am. To me, it’s all about the team doing well, not the guy in charge hanging on for the sake of it.”

The captaincy was such an honour to Hussain that he set about repairing his reputation as a selfish brat, and he won over the media by ridding the office of the culture of an M15 agent who would bite through a cyanide capsule rather than give out anything other than his name, rank and serial number.

Gooch had a policy of saying as little as possible, albeit at the same time regarding press conferences as a vehicle for his dry humour.

It was Hussain’s own decision to give up the one-day captaincy that hastened his departure, as two England captains at the same time is an unworkable concept.

As for Vaughan, it is simply a matter of time before he, too, discovers that the life cycle of an England captain goes from caterpillar, to butterfly, to tasty meal for a garden predator. No sooner do you go on your honeymoon than they order your tombstone, and if his weight of runs dries up with the weight of office, it could even be: “Here lies Michael Vaughan, 2003-2003.”

Email This Page