Throwing muck on a cricketer's white flannels is El Vino Dorado to some newspaper editors. And they can scarcely believe their luck of late. They have just demolished Mike Gatting as voraciously as the former England captain disposes of a cheese-and-pickle sandwich. Gatting, of course, was always vulnerable even though he did look as solid as a Norman church. He was a strong, brave and unselfish captain. But the reverse side of those qualities was a painful naivity which was always likely to lead to a pratfall.

An increasingly downmarket Press is largely to blame. Old fashioned foot-in-the Tandy cricket-writers are often appalled by the lurid tactics of their colleagues on the news desks for whom carnal knowledge must always be converted into general knowledge.

But the crickets are also to blame, even if the England team are not quite the bunch of Rabelaisian drinkers and womanisers that is sometimes suggested by the voyeurs of the yellow Press with their keyhole eye for salacious detail.

If you don't agree with me, I suggest you consult that unlikely source of Calvinism, Mr Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie, who led Hampshire, with great panache, to the County Championship of 1961.

Playing cricket for Ingleby-Mackenzie was famous fun with wine, women and song - and that was just during the tea interval. He once captained a side on a tour of Trinidad and after yet another late night the manager, E. W. Swanton, suggested an 11 o'clock curfew for the players. `But that would give us only half-an-hour's sleep,' replied the aghast Ingleby-Mackenzie. `We start play at 11.30!'

But Ingleby-Mackenzie, 55, now in business and living close to Lord's, is as knowing as a tired smile. And he knows there has been a great deal wrong with the England captaincy in recent years.

`I have been disappointed by recent captains like Ian Botham, Bob Willis, David Gower and Gatting,' he says. `Maybe they didn't have the right background but they lacked a certain style which should go with the job. Gatting, like Willis and Gower, seems a pleasant chap. And a very good cricketer too. But it does seem that when he was blessed with the ability to play cricket the way he does he must have had his intelligence quotient reduced accordingly, at least in some respects. It shows a lack of intelligence to be caught out by a buxom barmaid.

`I don't believe in curfews, such as the England team is meant to be observing at the moment. That is totally juvenile. Can you really imagine having a curfew for Denis Compton and Keith Miller? And if you did and they broke it what would you do to these two great players - drop them? The England players should not be treated like the pupils of some prep school.

`But at the same time, for players to be caught drinking late at a wine bar in the middle of an important match is utterly clumsy and stupid and something I would not have tolerated. That's what I mean by having a lack of style and subtlety.

`I can see that playing for Hampshire 25 years ago was a totally different experience from playing for England today. Times - and newspapers - have changed. But the players must be aware of the modern climate.

`I was a bachelor, and I think that does give you a little more poetic licence, in some respects. It also enables you to spend more time with the team, which is another reason why the England selectors should look to Mark Nicholas, at my old county, or Kent's Chris Cowdrey when they come to appoint their next captain. Both men have style. And they both have a sense of humour. Perhaps that's why they're such good friends.

`What makes me angry is a feeling that cricket has lost out because of what has happened recently. Being captain of England is what every boy cricketer must dream of, just as young politicians dream of becoming prime minister. In future I hope Test captains are judged for their flair, imagination and style as well as their basic cricket ability.'

This is how Ingleby-Mackenzie views some recent skippers of England: David Gower:`He had the right background but he never seemed to relish the difficulties of the job.' Mike Brearley: `He was a good captain, but not quite as good as some suggest. I think he was saved by Botham, who played those two wonderful, impossible innings in 1981.' Ian Botham: `He is a wonderful player. But let's face it, he does lack a few social graces, which didn't make the job any easier.' Bob Willis: `I thought Bob proved the old theory that fast bowlers don't make good captains.' Tony Greig: `Tony had more charisma than any recent England captain.' John Emburey: `I though John was the obvious choice within the team. He's a very thoughtful player and a professional's professional.'