Cricket: Captain still with a point to make

Henry Blofeld reveals his doubts about Adam Hollioake's leadership credentials
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The Independent Online
NO ONE has started this series of three one-day internationals under more pressure than the England captain, Adam Hollioake. It all went so well for him last December in that tournament England won in Sharjah.

This was the moment England's one-day side became finally divorced from the Test team. The policy was continued in the West Indies, where six players who had not been in the original Test party flew out for the five one-day internationals.

The side was to have been captained by Mike Atherton with Hollioake as vice-captain. Atherton then resigned after the Fifth Test in Antigua and Hollioake therefore assumed command. He began with a spirited victory in Barbados but then everything went wrong. The second match in Barbados was lost by one wicket and the remaining three by ever increasing margins.

There were a number of questions to be answered. Were the bit-part players like Matthew Fleming and Dougie Brown really good enough at this level? What had happened to Hollioake's own compelling form of captaincy and how bothered are sides when they play in Sharjah?

In the West Indies one could not avoid the impression that the strong central government which ruled the touring party from within had taken control of Hollioake. I cannot believe the Hollioake of Sharjah or even Barbados, come to that, would have batted first in both the games at Arnos Vale in St Vincent. His captaincy more and more looked the result of consensus politics rather than his own strong individuality.

One has sensed since that Hollioake realised this and hence his publicly announced intention to be his own man again now. He found this difficult in the first match at The Oval because he was let down by his batsmen before he could do anything.

In the field, he was probably about half-way between Sharjah and the West Indies. He is very clearly the captain as he orchestrates his fielders and talks to his bowlers, but I felt he was always uncertain how to handle the eternal one-day dilemma. Should he try to defend a total of 223 and keep South Africa to fewer runs or should he try and bowl them out?

In the closing stages, after Robert Croft had got rid of Hansie Cronje and Shaun Pollock with successive balls, he did not put the batsmen under enough pressure. The same thing happened at Old Trafford when Croft was bowling after Cronje and then Gerhardus Liebenberg were out. The new batsmen should have been put under more pressure. Towards the end of the South African innings, too, after 40 overs they were 166 for 7.

An adventurous captain would have gone for the kill and brought back Darren Gough. Instead, Hollioake bowled two overs himself and gave away 13 runs. As a one-day international captain, Hollioake still has his point to make. But will he be given the time?