Wednesday, 28 February 2007

England play with fire

The selection of Michael Vaughan as Captain for the forthcoming World Cup in the West Indies is a dangerous gamble by England’s selectors. Having stuck with Andrew Flintoff since October, his captaincy was finally starting to show promise towards the death of the Australian tour, with him captaining England to three splendid wins when it mattered. There can be no debating the fact that Vaughan is a more tactically astute captain than Flintoff and that he has as good a record as England ODI Captain as any other. If Vaughan fails a fitness test before a match, it seems as though Fred will be more than willing to step into the breach. Is this though good for the team and for Flintoff?

England’s most overworked and overhyped player will always know that he is second best when it comes to captaincy, as long as Michael Vaughan is in the squad, regardless of injury or form. Is it expecting too much of Flintoff to do the job on a seemingly casual basis, captaining for one match, then not for the next? How many games have Graeme Smith, Mahela Jayawardene and Rahul Dravid missed recently? It will always be a clouded issue, as to who should captain the ODI side permanently. Ultimately it can not be good for a side’s cohesion to be constantly chopping and changing.

What is not up for debate is whether Vaughan even deserves a squad place based exclusively on his ability as an ODI player. He simply does not. He averages 27, has never scored a century and achieved a top score of 26 in the 4 matches he limped through in Australia. His fielding has never been the best, impeded now by further niggles and old scars and he is a decent, but reluctant bowler. Had Marcus Trescothick not been struck from the scene by this lingering illness, then Vaughan’s ticket may already have been revoked and Trescothick installed as Captain.

Following the World Cup, there is no doubt that Vaughan should stick to Test match cricket and leave the ODI game to the younger guns. His mere presence though seems to lift this England side and bring the best out of his charges. If there were another man capable of this job, we would not even be having this debate. So it comes down once again to Vaughan’s record as captain. As was said earlier he is as successful an England Captain as there has been in ODI cricket and as such you can not ultimately argue with his selection for the World Cup, regardless of fitness and form. He will inspire England and if fully fit, he will relieve Flintoff of the burden which has at times effected his batting. Vaughan’s selection, fit or not, is good for England, but only if the captaincy remains with one player throughout the tournament.

Chris Pallett

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