'The split captaincy has worked to date' - Vaughan
Michael Vaughan is getting all too used to making comebacks. Since the tour of Pakistan in 2005-06 he has been in and out of the captaincy hot-seat on no fewer than seven occasions, although this latest return to the colours is subtly but significantly different. It was not another injury that led to his omission from the recent one-day series against West Indies; it was his acceptance that that aspect of his career had run its course. And it was not yet another stand-in who took his place in the manner of Andrew Strauss and Andrew Flintoff last year; it was Paul Collingwood, England's officially appointed one-day captain.
Fortunately for Vaughan, Collingwood is one of the most grounded men in the game and will doubtless settle back into the ranks for this Test without a moment's hesitation. But Vaughan would be forgiven for feeling a little on edge as he surveys his troops on Thursday morning. It was from an identical situation in 2003 that he himself inherited the Test captaincy from Nasser Hussain. Hussain, like Vaughan, had surrendered the one-day role after that year's World Cup, and he went on to endure one last distracted Test at Edgbaston before realising that his command of the dressing room had gone for good.
Three days into his latest spell at the helm, Vaughan was showing none of the angst that marked the end of his predecessor's tenure. "I'm feeling very refreshed," he announced, after a month's break in which time he had watched England's two Twenty20s against West Indies but merely dipped in and out of the 50-over games, much like the rest of the nation's sports-watchers. A stiff back, sustained during last week's rain-wrecked Roses match at Old Trafford, caused a murmur of alarm, but otherwise he announced himself to be fully fit - both physically and mentally.
"Only time will tell, but the split captaincy has worked to date," Vaughan said. "I haven't felt [the team] has moved on [without me], but I think the big test was when I saw Colly lead them out in the Twenty20 game, would I feel any bitterness or resentment? I didn't feel any of that, so I guess it was the right decision to move forward.
"Me and Colly are great mates," he said. "When I took the England captaincy I said I wanted 11 captains, and we now have two. Strauss has done the job as well, and there's also Freddie [Flintoff] when he comes back. The more leaders you can have in the dressing room and on the training pitch to drive the team forward, the better."
I haven't felt [the team] has moved on [without me], but I think the big test was when I saw Colly lead them out in the Twenty20 game, would I feel any bitterness or resentment? I didn't feel any of that, so I guess it was the right decision to move forward
For the time being, however, England have been shorn of so many of their established leaders that the sight of two official captains might be something of a blessing. If Matthew Hoggard's back spasm is as serious as the medical team fear, then England's attack will have lost the services of their last remaining link to the 2005 Ashes. At least one debutant is expected to feature in Stuart Broad; a second could follow if Chris Tremlett sneaks in ahead of James Anderson, while the most experienced man in the line-up will be none other than Monty Panesar, who was a wide-eyed new boy when the teams last met in India 16 months ago.
Vaughan, however, was determined to look on the bright side. " It's new and exciting to see," he said. "It's a brand-new attack with no Harmison, Flintoff, Giles or Simon Jones. We had a great attack in 2005, but it's exciting for us all to see how they react to playing in front of a lot of people, against a very good batting team. It's going to be a great challenge for whoever plays."
"We have some good options," he said. "Tremlett is bowling nicely with his bounce. Broady got a five-for [at Chelmsford], Jimmy got a five-for in the Roses match, and Sidey [Ryan Sidebottom] came in the early season and did exceptionally well. The Indian side are full of experience, more so in the batting, so it will be an exciting challenge for our young four-man attack to come up with plans to outdo them and, if they get the opportunity to be aggressive, to get 20 wickets in a Test match."
In the circumstances, the onus shifts squarely onto England's batsmen to provide the support required for such an untested attack. And few players have lorded it over the Indians quite so handsomely as Vaughan himself, whose golden summer of 2002 featured 615 runs in seven innings, including 197 at Trent Bridge, 195 at The Oval, and an even 100 in the first Test at Lords - the second of his five hundreds in nine matches on this ground.
"I always feel I play quite well at Lord's, but tomorrow's a new day, a new game, and I've just got to make sure I go out and try and do the basics," said Vaughan. "Like most times when you play well, it's about doing the basics well, and once you've done that you can elaborate a bit more, and attack the bowlers more. That's the style of batting I have when I'm playing well, and I felt I was doing that reasonably well earlier in the summer."
Vaughan marked his last England comeback with a memorable century against West Indies on his home ground at Headingley, but he had no hesitation in admitting that the big test of the season was just about to begin. "We know this is a bigger series," he said. "There is a lot more media, more supporters, and more exposure. It's a real good challenge for the team to see if we have moved forward from the winter, because we know that's how we'll be judged. We've played to a similar standard and now we need to raise it again."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo