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Experience will help Cook - Vaughan

Nagraj Gollapudi

August 30, 2012

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Michael Vaughan will take part in Extreme Sailing, Cardiff, August 30, 2012
Michael Vaughan believes Alastair Cook can navigate the rough waters © Getty Images
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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."

Who is the right partner for Cook?

  • The right man to occupy the vacant opening slot left behind by Strauss should be a specialist opener according to Michael Vaughan instead of a middle-order player being moved up.

  • There has been discussion that one of Jonathan Trott, the current No. 3, or Ian Bell should go alongside Cook. Such a move, Vaughan cautioned, could be counter-productive. "I have heard rumours about Trott or even Bell to move up and open the batting," he said. "I would advise them to pick an opening batsman, who has done it from an early age. The best openers in the game historically come from people who have done all their lives. Cook and Strauss did that as little boys."

  • Another reason Vaughan felt the move could backfire was because an opening batsman generally was more adept at moving down order whereas a middle-order batsman can struggle to settle against the new ball.

  • "You can go from opening to No.3, but, I am not so sure you can move in time from middle order to open. It is a very specialist position so I would advise them to pick who they feel is the best opening batsman to go with Cook and leave the experience in the middle order. So Trott and Bell, we need those kind of players in the middle of the innings particularly in the parts of the world like India."

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

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Posted by RandyOZ on (September 1, 2012, 2:39 GMT)

Probably still has nightmares about Warne when he goes to sleep.

Posted by Peck on (August 31, 2012, 13:38 GMT)

If anybody wondering why straussy has retired early, just check England's future tour program. You will get all your answers there. you are wellcome!

Posted by jb633 on (August 31, 2012, 12:58 GMT)

@thebrotherswaugh- nobody just happens to play 100 test matches. Any player that plays 100 test matches must be respected as a very good cricketer. Sure there are better players who have played less games but all in all he was a very good batsman. He struggled in the latter half of his career but from 2004-2007 he was the one of the best opening batsman going around.

Posted by atuljain1969 on (August 31, 2012, 11:48 GMT)

AZHAR MAHMOOD I believe can play for England, if so, he should be taken immediately for One dayers as well as 20-20. Such an experienced and boutifull allrounder.

Posted by liz1558 on (August 31, 2012, 10:33 GMT)

@thebrotherswaugh - complete codswallop. The reality is that the only time the 'great' Australia side of the noughties faced a genuinely good team, they got beaten (2005). And had that side stayed together, rather than tragically being ravaged by injuries, they would've easily retained the little Urn in 2006/7. No, no, no my down-under friend, the urn will stay where it belongs.

Posted by Hammond on (August 31, 2012, 8:50 GMT)

@thebrotherswaugh- interesting mate "simply because he was at the helm when the won the ashes twice in a row"- what, you are saying it was a coincidence that the captain happened to be Strauss when England won the ashes twice? So the captain doesn't have any influence on the side winning or losing? How about taking England to number one in the world? Beating a bog average team twice doesn't really compare to that..

Posted by liz1558 on (August 31, 2012, 7:57 GMT)

@Joninnorwich - I agree with your sentiments about KP - however, it's more complicated than that - he has made some very important runs for England - the 200 at Lords against India, a run a ball 151 against SL in Colombo, 158 against Aus at the Oval, and many others. The other England batsmen are good but none of them has the ability to dominate quality bowling in the way that Pietersen can. No one else in the world can. On the other hand, you're right, sometimes he's anonymous, bored, playing for the IPL window or whatever else motivates him. I would prefer to see it resolved and KP back in the England dressing room. The sad reality is, this may just not be possible. If not, then England have to put it to bed and move on quickly.

Posted by JG2704 on (August 31, 2012, 6:41 GMT)

My worry is that he might turn out to be a bit too much like Strauss as a captain.Strauss was a decent on top captain and certainly a decent man manager but I felt he had no confidence to make brave/maybe unpopular decisions (with some fellow players) in a bid to turn things around.With Vaughan in 2005,I loved his team formation vs Australia and I really can't imagine this current set of players coming back from a test down to beat any side let alone the great Australian side. I'd have said before now that Compton was the man to come in next but I wonder if it's more than coincidence that the 2005 side had a more aggressive batting line up.I feel that our conservative approach has cost us chances of coming back vs SA and even more so vs Pak. I think we have relied too much on the "It's what got us here" theory , which can be accepted for a bad game but when you lose 4 tests in a row (and not even against top sides - no disrespect SL/Pak) you surely have to make changes in approch etc

Posted by MattyP1979 on (August 31, 2012, 5:02 GMT)

Eng team is in a slight pickle yes, total disaray no. It is going to be tough, but i still see us winning if not drawing in Ind. Then we play 5 games against NZ!!! Slide down the rankings i think not. SA are a very good side and we were beaten, but we have just played the best team and now have all you minnows left. Time to consolidate the no.2.

Posted by mikey76 on (August 31, 2012, 4:43 GMT)

Love all the negative comments from blue android. As if South Africa are gonna rule the world for ten years!. English cricket is good health and we'll be up there competing with the best for years to come. I don't think there will ever be a 20 year dynasty again, which can only be good for the game.

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