By Anthony K
The great cricketer who fails as a captain (q.v.: Botham, I.T.) is a staple of sporting journalism and the usual conclusion is that they lack the insight required to understand and motivate players who don’t share their instinctive genius. Here at 51AllOut, we have little to add to this store of wisdom, except to note that these men often go on to have broadcasting careers which quickly establish their lack of insight into just about every aspect of the sport (q.v.: Botham, I.T.), whilst more cerebral players – often great captains – command respect in the world’s media centres.
This makes the case of one Michael Paul Vaughan especially puzzling. Here is a man whose batting was admired by all and who very quickly established himself as the shrewd and highly successful captain of the last England test team that looked like it might conquer the world (don’t remind us). He impressed with his tactical acumen and had the sensitivity to handle a disparate and difficult group of talents. Yet his recent public pronouncements have displayed an almost Botham-esque depth of imbecility. Hands up anyone who agrees with his suggestion that the temperamentally unsound and chronically off-form Stuart Broad should be captain of England’s 50-over side or that Alastair Cook, newly recalled to that one-day team and with an apprenticeship to serve as skipper, will replace Andrew Strauss as leader of the Test team this year. Thought so.
How has this happened? Has he been spending too much time with Geoffrey Boycott in the Test Match Special commentary box and decided to have a “Yorkshire-off” with the master of bluff nonsense? Perhaps it was all down to Duncan Fletcher in the first place? Or could it be the fault of Australia’s Advanced Hair Studios? This writer cannot offer any firm conclusions, but hanging around with men of the calibre of Greg Matthews and Mark Nicholas can’t be good for the balance of anyone’s mind. Let’s petition the ECB to get Graham Gooch, England’s batting coach, away from the team before it is too late. The success of England’s latest attempt to become the best Test side in the world may depend on it.
Joking aside, it certainly is puzzling. He won slightly more than half his matches as England captain, a tenure characterised by setting proactive, innovative fields and often attacking play, especially at home. Few other captains in the history of Test cricket have such an impressive win ratio, aside from those of the great Australian and West Indian teams. His batting ability is well-known, with his unbelievable form in the early 2000s (at one point in 2002 and 2003 he had scored 1533 runs in 22 innings against India, Sri Lanka and Australia) contrasting with a diminishing record once his knee injury became more serious. All England fans will recall his classical cover drives with fondness.
Following retirement, his move to the media was swift. He now acts as summariser for TMS and co-commentator for the terrestrial television highlights (alongside Nicholas, Boycott and Simon Hughes). On both, he tends to speak without engaging his mind, words often tumbling out as if there’s no tomorrow. Sadly as a consequence his views often come across as muddled and confused. Moreover, he has become a rent-a-quote, willing and able to provide handy soundbites for various media sources. Hence the above-mentioned comments about Broad and Cook.
It is a shame, because sometimes, when on safe ground, he can deliver an anecdote or provide a salient opinion on an issue. Perhaps, in trying to be the new jovial kid on the TMS block, the wise ex-captain and the go-to-guy for a readymade headline, he is spreading himself too thin, much like his former hairline.