Experience will help Cook - Vaughan
Michael Vaughan, the former England captain, believes Alastair Cook's wealth of experience at international level gives him a head start after taking over the Test captaincy from Andrew Strauss who retired from professional cricket on Wednesday.
Cook, who has been England's one-day captain since last year, will take charge for the first time on the tour of India which starts in October and already has 83 Tests to his name.
"He is unquestionably England's most experienced leader to have got the job," Vaughan told ESPNcricinfo . "He has played 83 Test matches for England. When I got the job I had played 31, Straussy had got the job when he played 50, Nasser Hussain got the job when he had played 47. Even if Cook is still a young boy he is the most experienced guy to ever have taken the role. So he should be in a great position to lead the team."
Strauss' retirement was the latest instalment of a difficult year for England who are also having to deal with the ongoing Kevin Pietersen stand-off. The Test side has lost six of 11 matches this year to concede the No. 1 ranking to South Africa cumulating in the recent 2-0 series loss to them. However, Vaughan said the basis of English cricket remained solid and there was no need for Cook to press the panic button.
According to Vaughan, who was handed the captaincy in 2003, after Nasser Hussain called time on the role after the first Test against South Africa at Edgbaston, most captains assume the captaincy job in equally "tricky" situations. Vaughan led England for five years, starting with the onerous task of phasing out some of his senior team-mates to allow the "new generation" help him reach his goal.
"Whenever you get the job you never get in a great circumstance," he said while promoting the Extreme Sailing Series in Cardiff. "I got the role when there were a lot of senior players around and clearly that transition of bringing in new players has to happen.
"So I had to kind of oversee how we were going to rid of the legendary or senior guys who had performed well for England for a number of years and bring a new generation and change the mentality of the team. We had lost to Australia for many, many series. I had to change the mentality of beating the great Australian side. That was my role."
Similarly, it was a difficult time when Strauss took over in the midst of the Pietersen-Peter Moores dispute in 2009. Despite such incidents, Vaughan stressed, England have always held the advantage of having a ready back-up in place. "When Straussy got the role there was a fall-out between Pietersen and Peter Moores, but there was a still a good element of players around. There has been a system for a while now, what I describe as a conveyor belt where England would keep producing players.
"And now Cook gets the role again in a tricky circumstance: England have lost six in their last eleven Tests, the Pietersen situation, how does he manage that, only he knows best how to manage that. It is actually good because you can start from afresh and move forward."
Paying tribute to Strauss, Vaughan called him a "good captain," someone who would always fall in the bracket of the best men to lead England this generation. Equally impressive for Vaughan was the timing of Strauss' retirement.
"The respect side was always there," Vaughan said. "The way he dealt with people was outstanding. The way he dealt with media was outstanding. And he has won games for England and managed to score runs as a captain. He is right up there with the captains of last 20 years. Andrew Strauss would be in that group that got mentioned quite often. He has done a good job and he has gone out at the right time."
It was Vaughan the captain who handed Strauss his Test cap on debut against New Zealand at Lord's. A decade later Strauss finished an illustrious career standing next to Vaughan among the most successful Test captains for England. Vaughan had 26 wins alongside 11 losses during his 51-match tenure while Strauss had 24 wins and 11 losses in the 50 Tests at the helm. Yet, according to Vaughan, neither man was destined to be a leader.
"I certainly did not think on my debut I would captain England, never mind going on to lead England 51 times and win 26 of those Tests," Vaughan said. " I never even expected that. And I never expected Andrew Strauss to have 50 Tests as captain when I gave him the Test cap. When I retired in 2008 Kevin Pietersen got the role and I did not see an opportunity for Strauss to get the job. But it came out of circumstance."
Vaughan called Strauss selfless, a modern leader. "He is very self-deprecating, always looked out for others and the team before himself. That is what makes a good leader in this era, someone who really looks at the rest before he looks at himself. That is really good."
On the August 30, Michael Vaughan is making his way down to Cardiff for the Extreme Sailing Series, Extreme 40 Catamaran race weekend. Raced by many of the world's best sailors, including Ian Williams the skipper of the GAC Pindar team and three tims World Match Racing Tour champion, the race will take place on Cardiff bay over four days with the event open to the public.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo