Cricket: Atherton named one-day captain as selectors favour tradition over innovation

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The Independent Online
With one-day cricket having become a different game to its longer and increasingly more distant cousin, the practice of having two different teams, with possibly two different captains, is becoming widespread.

Derek Pringle finds the England selectors only in partial agreement as they announce both the one-day squad and captain for the Caribbean.

The England selectors, sticking to the time-honoured tradition of having one captain for both Test and one-day teams, have confirmed that Michael Atherton, already in charge of the forthcoming Test series, will remain as England's one-day captain for the West Indies.

Considering the bold steps taken in Sharjah under Adam Hollioake, where England won the Champions Trophy, the announcement came as something of a surprise, not least to Hollioake, who must settle for vice-captain instead.

It all looked very different before Christmas, and having opted to rest during Sharjah, Atherton was widely thought to have paved the way for Hollioake - who in his absence not only stepped into the breach, but out of the other side with a trophy too.

Indeed for many, the triumph of Sharjah made it almost a foregone conclusion, albeit one that needed to be rubber-stamped by the other selectors, Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting, now both departed on England A's tour to Kenya and Sri Lanka.

Clearly they felt differently, though the chairman, David Graveney, announced, after the three had got together yesterday at Gatwick, that it had been a unanimous decision.

"Michael's last captaincy involvement of a one-day squad was the 3-0 win over Australia," Graveney said. "So we are very fortunate to have two outstanding candidates to be captain of the one-day team.

"A priority is to win the Test series in the West Indies, but we have identified the path we want to take in terms of one-day cricket leading up to the World Cup."

For Atherton, a man on the cusp of resigning as England captain only a matter on months ago, the decision must have been a gratifying one. In its attempts to modernise, English cricket has not overlooked its loyalties and while Atherton has been far from faultless as captain, there is no doubt he has given the job everything.

Although he is still on holiday in Jamaica, Atherton has been in touch with Graveney. But while he will have seen Hollioake's star in the ascendant during Sharjah, he will no doubt have reminded the chairman of selectors of his century in the second one-day match against Australia last season.

"I've always said I was keen to play one-day internationals for England, and that remains the case," he said from his hotel in Montego Bay. "I'm happy to be captaining the one-day squad, which will reflect the success of the team in Sharjah while providing space for competition for those in the West Indies.

"I'm looking forward to working with Adam," he added. "He did an outstanding job in Sharjah, and that's been reflected by his promotion to vice-captain. All of us in the West Indies will be keen to find out how things worked in Sharjah and look to continue that momentum."

For Hollioake, the promise of an exciting Christmas present has, like Santa Claus, disappeared into the ether. Having captained with distinction, Hollioake could perhaps have done with one or two more telling performances to convince the selectors of his certainty in selection. These days captains cannot be carried.

However, if he is disappointed, he hid it well. "It was obviously a difficult decision for the selectors," the Surrey captain said, "but I'm delighted to have been made vice-captain for the one-dayers. Mike was unavailable for Sharjah but in the last series he was captain against Australia: we won 3-0 and he was man of the series."

For many, Hollioake's 100 per cent record in the Gulf could not be faulted. Yet as Atherton will no doubt pass on to him during the forthcoming tour of the Caribbean, the truest measure of a captain is not so much how you perform when you are winning, but how you go about getting your team back upright when they have been on their knees. So far only Atherton has been there.