The Ashes 2013-14

Prior 'underestimated' vice-captaincy

Andrew McGlashan

October 26, 2013

Comments: 20 | Text size: A | A

Matt Prior lost his off stump first ball, England v Australia, 4th Investec Test, 4th day, Chester-le-Street, August 12, 2013
Matt Prior had a lean time with the bat during the English season © Getty Images
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Matt Prior, the England wicketkeeper, has conceded that his role as Test vice-captain may have played a part in a lean Ashes series with the bat after he "underestimated" the demands of the job but it has not doused his enthusiasm to be Alastair Cook's lieutenant.

Prior was officially elevated to the position for England's series in New Zealand earlier this year having taken on the role during the tour of India when Stuart Broad was injured. Initially, Prior's form remained as stellar as ever - including a monumental match-saving hundred in Auckland - but the runs dried up during the home season after he began with a pair against New Zealand at Lord's just days after being named England's Player of the Year.

His average of 19 was his lowest in a series of four or more matches and the fourth lowest of his career. Prior termed the feeling of not contributing significantly with the bat as "horrendous" but now believes he has a better grasp of how he must balance the multiple demands of batsman, wicketkeeper and vice-captain.

"First and foremost I am absolutely loving the role but I have to change a few things to make sure I still get the best out of myself as a player as well," he said. "I underestimated what it meant. I thought I would just carry on doing what I was doing and it would just say VC next to my name on the team sheet."

"I have realised that there is a time for team duties, a time when you have to make sure you get enough time and enough work as an individual, switching on to what you are doing. The last series was horrendous and I want to improve on that."

Prior's senior position means he is part of the leadership team within England's Test side alongside Cook and team director Andy Flower. However, England have begun their Ashes tour with continued speculation over the future of Flower after suggestions emerged during the latter part of the home season that this contest against Australia could be his last in the job.

Before leaving the UK, Cook said he had no reason to believe Flower would depart after the Sydney Test and that the post-season break had given him a chance to refresh after a challenging season.

After The Oval Test in August, Flower would not look further ahead than this return series but it has never been his style to throw too far ahead into future, at least in public. Prior said the team would do everything they could to ensure he is around for considerable time yet although admits he is a hard man to shift.

"Firstly I would be really sad if Andy packed up," Prior said. "He has been hugely pivotal in this team; look at when he took over in 2009 with what happened with Mooresy [Peter Moores] and KP. We certainly would try to persuade him [to stay] but anyone who knows him well enough will realise that once he's made his mind up on something he's not being persuaded.

"Who knows what he is going to do? I hope he stays on but the important thing is we know we have got him for this Ashes series. That's all we have to worry about."

Prior is now focused on being part of securing a piece of history for this generation of England cricketers with a fourth straight Ashes series win which they have not achieved since the 1890s.

"It's a huge carrot," he said. "This team has really responded well to being a part of history, not just scoring runs and winning matches. I remember in 2009 we were having a meeting at Lord's and said it was 75 years since we beat Australia here - we have to change that. Let's change that. We did it. There was India away which was 28 years, or the Ashes first which was 25 years.

"Those stats really get us going and the team enjoys those challenges and making that bit of history. This four in a row would be the biggest thing in my career and I imagine also for the other boys."

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Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (October 28, 2013, 9:20 GMT)

@Buggsy: Yes Clarke's recent record of test victories is so impressive compared to Cook's....

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (October 28, 2013, 9:13 GMT)

When England's bowling went awry (e.g. against tail-enders in a few games, when it constantly looked liked England just expected wickets to be a formality instead of actually working for them and earning them well) - I did notice during the last Ashes series that Prior had very little input on the matter. Yes I was restricted to watching highlights, but not once did I see Prior going over to consult with Cook and/or the bowlers, and more often than not it was KP for some reason that ran over to council the bowlers. I just feel that not only as VC, but as wicket-keeper as well, Prior should be one of the first players to be shouting "Christ, pitch it up Broad!" or "Swann, here's the footmark here!" - instead of standing motionless with his face covered with a glove...

Posted by JG2704 on (October 28, 2013, 8:52 GMT)

It's a strange coincidnce that shortly after a glowing piece written on here that 2 of our players Cook (after the Bradman comparison) and Prior have lost their form. I'm wondering if some of the characters who post on here (no names mentioned but we all know who they are) could in future do threads on England players as we know we won't get anything positive about England players and it may have the reverse effect?

Posted by JG2704 on (October 28, 2013, 8:51 GMT)

@dunger.bob on (October 27, 2013, 6:06 GMT) I think he brings more to the team than just his playing skills. I'd say he's a vital part of our dressing room and seemed to be instrumental in getting KP back into the set up.

Posted by   on (October 28, 2013, 8:17 GMT)

Listen to the majority of the "experts" on hete( most of whom I suspect have never picked up a bat in anger) you would think England have a poor Test record recently and not just thrashed the Aussies.

Posted by   on (October 28, 2013, 5:21 GMT)

what about he got overconfident and overestimated his own abilities.. for me that seemed like the reason whole series

Posted by Shaggy076 on (October 27, 2013, 22:32 GMT)

I think its a bit poor blaming the pressures of Vice captain for a poor series, the Australians had great plans for him. He is a class player and I'm sure he will work on the areas that Australia got him and it will be starting from scratch again in the next series. Vice captain is not that tough a job, surely less demanding than wicket keeping itself.

Posted by   on (October 27, 2013, 19:04 GMT)

he is best wicket keeper batsman after ab devillers and sanga in test matches

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (October 27, 2013, 13:57 GMT)

When Prior was elevated to the vice captaincy it was because he displayed obvious leadership qualities and selflessness in his approach to the game.It may be though that these are not precisely the qualities required to be vc so that he has had to learn a few things along the way which have less to do with flair and more to do with organisation. The obvious truth too is that he is always in the best position in the field to be in the know and he is always involved. I may not actually be necessary for him to be vc to contribute. But he seems to get along with the other players so his input is respected. Most people have a threshold which if crossed leads to being overburdened. It is a difficult question. Re his batting-is he likely to fail in 2 consecutive series? He is not impressed by the last series' batting, so I think he will scoring heavily again.

Posted by landl47 on (October 27, 2013, 13:00 GMT)

@jackiethepen: I'm not sure which games you were watching. In the games I saw, Cook was standing right next to Prior at first slip for most of the time and talked with him constantly.

Cook's record as captain is W 9, D 6, L 1. If that's poor captaincy I will be watching with interest to see how well England does when he masters the art.

@JGreaves & dunger.bob: lol- yes, that wasn't my most successful metaphor, was it?

Posted by Buggsy on (October 27, 2013, 12:22 GMT)

No Englishman has ever been able to handle captaincy and form at the same time. Tough ask but Clarke and Dhoni handle it just fine.

Posted by RednWhiteArmy on (October 27, 2013, 11:58 GMT)

5-0 to the mighty, mighty England. Of that their can be no doubt. :)

Posted by jackiethepen on (October 27, 2013, 10:05 GMT)

The England captaincy throughout the Series was unimpressive and downright poor on occasions. So if Prior had any part of that then it is no credit to him. When Cook looked flummoxed he didn't turn to his VC but to Anderson and occasionally KP had a word or two. Most of the time Cook looked frozen when things went wrong like Finn losing it. Instead of taking Finn off he let him carry on and Australia got away at Trent Bridge. It cost Finn his place. Bowlers shouldn't be that exposed. They can always strike again. Did Prior have a word or two? No. He didn't seem to have a clue either. The same when Cook captained in New Zealand and later in England v NZ. There were times when the captaincy was embarrassing. Because of Cook and Prior's form no one is saying anything. Flower tries to disguise it by running the game from the bench.

Posted by ScottStevo on (October 27, 2013, 9:52 GMT)

@Front-Foot-Lunge, I looking at the highlights and what I see is 24 innings, 1 century and 3 half centuries at an average of 32 and going downhill now that he's Siddle's bunny. I'm sure Siddle will be licking his lips at the prospect of sending Prior packing with a Cook-esque average of around 20 odd!

Posted by GeoffreysMother on (October 27, 2013, 9:36 GMT)

Mmm - I not sure that was the reason for a poor series. I wonder if he just got a bit full of himself: comments about how he would be putting pressure on Australia's inexperienced players and about how England should create a window for top players to play in the IPL maybe were indicative of a bit of overconfidence. Plus , of course, Australia's bowlers worked him out.

That of course is part and parcel of cricket: other players work you out then you go away and work on your game, and if you are good enough you come up with an answer. Expect next moth to see a Prior who is refocussed on the basics (and that includes his wicketkeeping), Trott countering the short ball to a packed onside field, Root playing more off the front foot and Australian bowlers to have a theory about how to get Bell out.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (October 27, 2013, 8:32 GMT)

@dunger.bob, If you're as unconvinced as you say you are, check out the last few Ashes series' highlights. That should clear it up for you. Prior had a poor series with th the bat ast series sure, but it was his only poor series in about a zillion years. We all, and that includes Oz, know what he can do.

Posted by xtrafalgarx on (October 27, 2013, 6:39 GMT)

@dunger.bob. Well put, i definitley agree. I don't think he is as good as he has been made out to be but to be fair he does a good job, and his numbers do stack up nicely.

Posted by dunger.bob on (October 27, 2013, 6:06 GMT)

I've never been 100% convinced that Prior is the player everyone seems to think he is. What's not in doubt is his commitment and effort though. After reading this article I can see that he has a sense of the history of the game to boot. .. Good on him.

@Land47: 6 or 7 ducks in a row would help us along nicely I'd say. Can you have a word to him.

Posted by JGreaves on (October 27, 2013, 4:57 GMT)


"Hopefully Prior can get his ducks in a row for this series ...... "

I know what you mean, but you might have chosen your phrasing a little more carefully! May your hopes not come to pass.

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Andrew McGlashanClose
Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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