After 28 Years, English Cricket gets something right

I was rather pleasantly surprised to read that Michael Vaughn, probably the best England Cricket Captain of recent years, has been retained to coach and mentor young cricketers in the “mental aspects of cricket, decision-making and captaincy.”

My mind travels back to 1981, when Mike Brearley was recalled to the role of England Captain when the current incumbent, Ian Botham, resigned the captaincy due to the adverse effect it was having on his playing. At the time Brearley would never have made the side on his cricketing skills (he probably wouldn’t even have done so a few years previously in his “pomp”), it was purely down to his cricketing brain, and especially his leadership and man-management skills, which allowed him to get the best out of people like Botham, David Gower and Bob Willis. The appointment was clearly a stop-gap measure, and it is here that the MCC (who ran the England team back then) clearly missed a trick.

David Gower was clearly marked out as the golden boy and FEC (Future England Captain), but was seen as too young and inexperienced. What should have happened is that Brearley should have been taken to one side and told “Gower is the future, teach him all that you know”. What did happen is that Keith Fletcher, another older player but experienced county captain, was called into the side, lost a series against India and a test against Sri Lanka before being dismissed. Bob Willis succeeded Fletcher, but combining the roles of fast bowler and Skipper are notoriously difficult and on the 1983/4 Winter tour to Pakistan, Gower took over after the first test. Three years of bumbling around could have been avoided. Now, I am not being wise after the event, since both myself and wiser counsels thought as much, back in ’81.

Fast-Forward to 2009. Developing England Captains is even harder. The England Cricket team is now run by the ECB (England and Wales cricket Board), who retain the top players on “Central Contracts”. This means that once you are an England Player you very rarely play for your (handsomely renumerated) County. While this may allow better management of the players, by preventing them being flogged to death playing out dull draws in front of the proverbial three men and one dog on the County circuit, it does mean that young players in the England set-up don’t get a chance to develop the leadership skills associated with Captaining their county. And by definition, most county captains haven’t made the grade as an England player. (e.g. Robert Key who was suggested as a candidate to replace Kevin Pietersen before Andrew Strauss was appointed). Therefore there is clearly a need to inculcate young players in the England setup with the necessary skills. Shame it has taken someone 218 years to sort this out.

~ by @mmonyte on September 19, 2009.

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