Atherton reappointed as captain against India

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The Independent Online
Michael Atherton was yesterday confirmed as England's captain for the Test and one-day series against India. The news came as Atherton was waiting to go in to bat at Old Trafford, where Lancashire were playing Yorkshire in a one-day friendly.

"I'm delighted," he said, when asked about his reappointment. "I feel full of running and refreshed. There are a few new faces about and I'm full of optimism. Hopefully that optimism can be fulfilled."

Quick to dismiss rumours that he had been close to quitting after England's lamentable World Cup, Atherton said: "I felt down, but it didn't take long to get up again."

There is nothing surprising about Atherton's reappointment, nor the length of it. According to England's coach, David Lloyd, the process took less than 30 seconds, though it had later to be rubber-stamped by Dennis Silk, the chairman of the TCCB.

For one thing, there are no other candidates worthy of long term consideration. And secondly, Atherton is resolutely the right man for the job even if his body language is occasionally wrong, particularly during post-match press conferences, where his demeanour often suggests he feels he is dealing with more than just the one buffoon he thoughtlessly singled out in Pakistan.

Atherton, for whom Test cricket is a very serious business indeed, feels he cannot win. When England do badly he simply cannot bring himself to shrug it off with frivolity. When they do well, his natural modesty forbids him from lauding himself or his team too loudly.

At 28, the Lancashire opener is still determined despite his meagre record of seven wins from 29 Tests in charge. English cricket may be in the doldrums, but they are fortunate to have in Atherton a man not afraid to thrust his bare hands into the nettle bed, knowing full well what the consequences are likely to be.

It is a rare instinct among modern sportsmen, whose tendency towards self-preservation seems inborn. In many respects he is like his predecessor and now co-selector, Graham Gooch. But, like him, he will have his saturation point and England will have to start winning if he is to keep his appetite intact. For the moment, he is hungry once more.

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