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Since 1st March, 1999
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Smith made me feel stale: Hussain
- ‘I wouldn’t have quit if England had lost the first Test... it would have been up to me to turn the series around’

London: Former England skipper Nasser Hussain has admitted that the “young” and “vibrant” South African captain Graeme Smith made him feel “stale” in comparison and it was one of the reasons why he decided to quit his post in the midst of the Test series against the Proteas.

Hussain, who quit as England Test captain after the drawn first match last week, also reveals that for the first time ever he did not captain the first Test in the way “Nasser Hussain would have done” because he was not brave enough to follow his gut feeling. Instead, he was more worried about “how I’d look to the press corps”.

Hussain, making the revelations in his column in The Sunday Telegraph, is startlingly honest when he says “I was feeling stale as a captain especially when I saw their young, vibrant, in-your-face captain come out to bat.”

The same England skipper who had triggered a war of words with Smith on the eve of the first Test, praises Smith saying “I am very impressed with Graeme Smith. He has the energy which I like to think I had when I started.” And now the time has come, feels Hussain, for a “new era and a dynamic new captain.”

Decision made easy

Referring to his rather abrupt decision to quit, Hussain says the fact that they had drawn the first Test against South Africa, made it easier for him resign from his post.

“If we had lost at Edgbaston it would have been different. If we had lost the first Test, I would not have resigned because I would have believed I had messed up the game and it was up to me to turn the series round.

“But as it was a draw, and the series was still 0-0, no damage had been done and it was time to move on. The fact that we were in the middle of back-to-back Tests made it easier, too: there was no time for Michael Vaughan to get nervous and the press to pile on the pressure,” writes Hussain who quit the one-day captaincy after England’s failed World Cup outing.

Hussain also feels England could not do with two captains whose “style” are different for too long.

The concept of two different captains for Test and one-day matches could work only if both of them had the same style or if, like Mike Atherton and Adam Hollioake they are not in each other’s sides, says Hussain.

“But Michael Vaughan’s style and mine are different and with three winter tours coming up, we couldn’t keep on chopping and changing. Vaughan has a completely different style of leadership.

“I am aggressive, he is calm. I felt the team was still 100 per cent behind me but also aware that if I shouted at the boys, they might look at me and say, ‘we’ve got an alternative to you, we don’t have to take that stick.’

“...Then after the way Vaughan batted in his big hundred to save the game at Edgbaston, there was all the more reason for me to move on.”

Asserting that the goal of any England captain has to be to head his side to victory over Australia, Hussain says “last winter, after we had lost the Ashes yet again, I knew I wouldn’t be around for the next Ashes battle, so I had spoken with Duncan Fletcher and we agreed we were looking out for a candidate to put his hand up.

Worthy candidate

“Having seen this candidate in Michael Vaughan — our one world-class batsman, our matchwinner — I decided that the Test series against South Africa would be the last I’d do.

“It was time to move on. I was starting to tire. I loved the job of being England captain so much that I didn’t want to hang on a day too long. I didn’t want to tarnish any part of it, even my dealings with the press.”

But Hussain admits that his appetite for captaincy was not really tested until the first day of the first Test against South Africa.

“When I became England captain, Jon Agnew asked me what I would bring to the job, and I said: ‘My absolute best every day’ — and four years had begun to knock that determination out of me.

“On that day, for the first time, I didn’t captain the team in the way Nasser Hussain has always done. I wasn’t aggressive, I didn’t set unusual fields, I didn’t think up new theories.

“In the past I’d been brave enough to go with my gut feeling: In Brisbane, for example, when I sent Australia in to bat, or in the World Cup qualifier at Port Elizabeth, when everybody expected me to bring back Andy Caddick and I went with Jimmy Anderson.

“They were mistakes, but honest mistakes, made following my gut feeling. And now I found I wasn’t brave enough to go with my gut feeling,” Hussain writes.

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