Michael Vaughan took easy option

2008-08-05 00:00

“It has come as a shock to me” — that was Graeme Smith’s response to hearing that Michael Vaughan had resigned as England cricket captain.

My first thought was how much earlier Vaughan’s resignation would have come had he been in Smith’s shoes. Smith and West Indian Chris Gayle, in my opinion, have the toughest jobs in world cricket.

Smith faces tough selection dilemmas before his team even takes to the field, while Gayle faces the daunting challenges of trying to galvanise a team made up of individuals from islands geographically and culturally miles apart.

Captaining England is surely one of the most prestigious positions in world cricket. As with all English sports, there is a great deal of pressure from the media, but along with this come the rewards which are significant. Prestige and lucrative contracts come with the job, but most importantly, there is also the honour of captaining England.

I just cannot believe that one of the best captains England have ever had has turned his back on his team with one Test still to play in the series against South Africa.

Surely this is the time for him to show some fight, salvage some pride and stand behind his team, who after succumbing to South Africa in the series, clearly need strong leadership.

Vaughan has been quoted as saying that by relinquishing the captaincy he hopes to prolong his career as a batsman, which does not say much for his commitment to his country. Vaughan was definitely under pressure because of a string of poor performances with the bat and, so it seems, he has taken the easy option before the selectors consider dropping him.

Vaughan has also stated that he is not available for selection for the final Test match at the Oval, which proves he is not strong enough to face the possibility of being dropped. And that is not a great example for potential English captains and players to follow.

To be honest, I find all these fragile egos a bit much. When Ian Healy wanted to play his final Test in front of his home crowd in Queensland, the Australian selectors took the tough decision to replace him with Adam Gilchrist and Healy was dropped.

Vaughan would surely have shown much more character by hanging on to his position as captain — even if that meant he faced the danger of being dropped.

Michael Vaughan is only 33 years old, with plenty of cricket left in him, and his knowledge of the game is remarkable. He also has a superb record against some of the best teams in the world.

Great captains like Steve Waugh and Mark Taylor fought all the way to the end of their careers and stopped playing once they retired as captains. I cannot believe Vaughan has already given his all, or shown enough fight, to throw in the towel.

You could understand if Graeme Smith — with all the off-field issues and challenges he has faced during his tenure as captain — decided to resign. But, in contrast to Vaughan, he has lead from the front and made South Africa proud.

Vaughan should be encouraged to go back and play for his county and to fight for his place in the team. He will surely return as a player, and, one hopes, a captain of stronger character.

Perhaps he could take a leaf out of Kevin Pietersen’s book who, after being named Vaughan’s replacement, said: “I’m not going to be a wimp and say I’m not going to do it. I’m going to accept this challenge and give it a go — like I give everything a go.”

NEIL JOHNSON, a former Natal, Zimbabwe and Hampshire all-rounder, lives in Pietermaritzburg.

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