Tanya's Take

Vaughan behind the mike

The former England captain is, somewhat surprisingly, good on radio: funny, articulate, shrewd and insightful

Tanya Aldred
Tanya Aldred
Michael Vaughan addresses the media on announcing his retirement, Edgbaston, June 30, 2009

Vaughan: distinctive on radio, and no third-person references (yet)  •  AFP

Up here in Manchester, the snow falls and falls again. The washing line is garlanded with pure white, the schools are closed and teenagers decapitate snowmen in the front yards. But summer still exists on the radio, albeit a hemisphere away, in the sound of the BBC's Test Match Special, broadcasting from Cape Town.
There the sun beats down as relentlessly as the South African batsmen, the view of Table Mountain is always beautiful, and wonderful things to eat still appear in the back of the commentary box. Also hanging around, care of the licence fee, is Michael Vaughan, back at the site of his Test debut, 10 and a bit years ago.
The Vaughan hype had always passed me by. An extremely awkward interview with him one cringeworthy Saturday left the impression of a man without empathy.
But his stint on TMS has jolted that prejudice. He's funny, articulate and shrewd, and gives the listener more than a peek into what it is to be both an international captain and part of a dressing room. We learn about the ex-England physio Dean Conway and his penchant for cakes, and about the importance of body language and the trials and tribulations of captaincy and form. Vaughan pulls few punches and isn't afraid to disagree with his fellow commentators - his views on the Barmy Army and how much he values them and their noise palpably shocked Christopher Martin-Jenkins.
His voice is distinctive, and though he has a tendency to slip into transatlantic drawl ("real tough"), there hasn't yet been any evidence of his old habit of referring to Michael Vaughan in the third person. He sounds, well, like a leader, and if someone without knowledge of cricket was asked to listen to the voices and identify the former captain, I'd wager they could.
Is Vaughan soon to depart these radio waves for the Sky television box, where the cakes are fewer but the dollar bills bigger, and where two of his predecessors, Nasser Hussain and Michael Atherton, have flourished?
But is he soon to depart these radio waves for the Sky television box, where the cakes are fewer but the dollar bills bigger, and where two of his predecessors, Nasser Hussain and Michael Atherton, have flourished? Where would Sky squeeze him in? Would two dry, intelligent northerners in one box be too many? Would another Ashes-winning captain be too much for Ian Botham and Hussain and Atherton? Would it put David Gower's nose out of joint? And who will be pushed aside to make the lonely downward journey to the B team, to the wide-eyed, slightly haywire world of Bob Willis and Paul Allott - the best comedy duo this side of Cannon and Ball? Or, perhaps more humiliating, to join Ian Ward and various county players with time on their hands in the graveyard shift.
Previous England captains Alec Stewart and Graham Gooch have stayed loyal to the BBC - probably because the thick brown Sky envelope never landed on their doorsteps. Would Vaughan be prepared to say no, to entertain those who listen while they work rather than those who have made time to sit and watch? It would be lovely to think so. He has added to the pleasure of listening to the radio.
Yet however rapid his rise up the broadcasting ladder, he has a long way to go to beat the biggest climber of them all, Mark Nicholas. Nicholas was Hampshire captain for over 10 years, leading them to four one-day titles. His county batting average was a respectable 34.39 and he left the stage with 72 first-class wickets in his pocket, but without a full England cap to call his own. His broadcasting career started at Sky before he moved to become the frontman on Channel 4 during the channel's glory years of covering Test cricket in the early noughties. He wrote a eulogy to the late Malcolm Marshall that was so beautiful it made it into Wisden. And then he, a posh, three initialled Englishman, ended up with the most prestigious job of them all: anchorman on Australia's Channel Nine - making every English winter an Australian summer.
He is currently in shirtsleeves, watching Australia v Pakistan. And his sidekick is Richie Benaud. You don't get much better than that.

Tanya Aldred lives in Manchester. She writes occasionally for the Guardian