England in crisis January 7, 2009

Who after Pietersen?

England look like needing a new captain for the second time in five months so who are the candidates for one of the toughest jobs in English sport?

Leading man: Andrew Strauss is favourite to replace Kevin Pietersen now he is certain of his Test place © Getty Images
Andrew Strauss
The frontrunner to take over, and many believe Strauss should have been made England captain for the 2006-07 Ashes ahead of Andrew Flintoff. The ECB would probably have liked him to be a candidate when Michael Vaughan stood down, but he was still battling to secure his place back in the top order. Twin hundreds in Chennai confirmed him as a long-term fixture once again, and now his calmness could be just what the team needs during these tumultuous times. His previous short spell as captain, in 2006, brought an impressive series win against Pakistan and even when Kevin Pietersen took the role the thought still remained his time would come.
Pros A senior player with previous captaincy experience, respected by his team-mates
Cons Not part of the one-day or Twenty20 set-up

Alastair Cook
Like Michael Atherton, Cook has carried the tag of an FEC (Future England Captain) since he made his nerveless debut against India in 2006. Despite a below-par 2008 he is still a fixture as opening batsman in the Test team, but has lost his one-day place and will struggle to make the grade in the limited-overs game as a one-paced player. At just 24 it would be a very young appointment and he would be best left to work on his own game without the burden of leading a team. He has plenty of time to rise to the top of the English game.
Pros A long-term pick which would allow planning for the future
Cons Like Strauss, only a Test certainty and still very young

Andrew Flintoff
Still the talismanic figure of English cricket and a good barometer of how the team is performing. His return from a long-term ankle injury has added another dimension to the team in all formats and he carries a huge amount of respect from team-mates and opposition. However, following the 5-0 Ashes whitewash he said he wouldn't want to take on the captaincy again and England will be loath to over-burden such a key figure with leadership duties. Flintoff is best suited to being the heartbeat of the side with bat and ball.
Pros A chance for him to prove he can lead a team after the Ashes whitewash would be a motivation
Cons He's too important to the team and already has enough on his plate

Robert Key
If the ECB finally decide to look outside the Team England bubble, Kent captain Key will be the leading figure from the domestic scene. His name was touted when Vaughan stepped down and his captaincy style has developed since taking the role with Kent, even though the county has struggle on the field. He is a calm, laid-back leader who would allow the players to be their own people and would have no problem fitting back into a side which includes good friends Flintoff and Steve Harmison.
Pros A new face would bring new ideas, and at the same time would freshen up a batting order that has become stale
Cons Would have to justify his place with runs at the same time as learning international captaincy.

Paul Collingwood
He resigned the one-day captaincy at the same time as Vaughan stood down and probably the only thing in his favour is that he can command a place in all formats of the game. When he was in charge of the one-day side he struggled to make his presence felt and was involved in the run-out controversy involving Grant Elliott at The Oval when he refused to recall the batsman.
Pros A tough character for tough times, possibly as short-term solution
Cons Wasn't quite up to it previously and is seemingly always fighting for his place.

Michael Vaughan
He resigned in tears, saying he'd put everything he had into the captaincy for five years. Would he have anything left to give with England crying out for some stability? His credentials aren't in doubt, but the same problem would arise as when he quit over his batting form. However, with the most important series this year being the Ashes it might be the desperate solution to a desperate situation.
Pros Been there, done that and won the Ashes
Cons Has had his time and no chance to prove any batting form

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo