Cricket: Honesty the best policy for Vaughan

A management training course has taught England A's young captain the benefit of the direct approach.
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The Independent Online
AS THE focus Down Under switches from five-day to one-day cricket with the forthcoming triangular series and its implications for this summer's World Cup, the England A team will be slipping off quietly from Heathrow tomorrow evening, bound for Zimbabwe and South Africa under the captaincy of Yorkshire's 24-year-old opener, Michael Vaughan.

When the squads for England's various touring parties were announced at the end of last season, the make-up of the A side raised a few eyebrows - average age 22 with just one player, Andy Flintoff, with Test experience. The selectors were to be praised for investing in youth, but had they gone a little far?

Vaughan's appointment, too, was unexpected. Five years after making his debut for his adopted county at the age of 18 against Lancashire, the county of his birth, and after two previous A tours Vaughan seemed to be at a crossroads in his career. One way led to Australia with the senior side, the other to oblivion for another winter.

Last season he averaged just under 41 in the Championship, but a lack of runs towards the end put him out of contention for the Ashes series so the invitation to complete his A team education was a very welcome one. "It was a bit of a surprise to get a third A tour and the captaincy as well, having never captained Yorkshire apart from one game last season against Cambridge," he said earlier this week. "But they've gone for young captains in the last two years so obviously they didn't want to change that."

Vaughan had just completed his final indoor net session at Headingley before taking his leave of staff at the ground that has been home from his real home in Sheffield, ever since joining the Yorkshire Cricket Academy at the age of 16. While Sachin Tendulkar may have been the first overseas player to join Yorkshire, Vaughan is one of a small number of players born outside the Ridings to play for the county.

As a descendant of the Tyldesley brothers, Johnny and Ernest, his Lancashire cricketing pedigree seemed thorough but when his father's engineering job took the family to Sheffield from Eccles in Greater Manchester, Vaughan's red rose turned white straight away. "I'm a Sheffield lad," he said, "I love it. It's a great city. I was nine and a half when we moved and I didn't know much. I learnt all my tricks in Sheffield."

Despite playing for Yorkshire Schools from the age of 11, as a youngster and an avid Sheffield Wednesday fan Vaughan's ability as a footballer kept his cricketing development in check for a time. "Around the age of 12 or 13 I wasn't really the best of my age group," he said. "I used to bat seven and bowl a bit of away swing. Football was my true love then and I was probably doing a bit better at it. It wasn't until I got to about 15 that I really started to progress at cricket."

After captaining Yorkshire Under-16s and England Under-17s, the real breakthrough for Vaughan came in the summer of 1993 after playing for the England Under-19s against the West Indies. "I scored two centuries and people started talking about me playing for Yorkshire," he recalled. "The following week I got picked against Lancashire and just happened to score 60 and 30 on a difficult wicket and we won the game. All of a sudden, from one week being no one, everyone was talking about me. It was nice to have things said, but it didn't really get to me."

Vaughan's steady progress since then, scoring 1,0000 runs every season except one when a wrist injury kept him out for seven weeks, appears to confirm a level-headed approach to his batting. "Last season was probably my best yet," he said. "With Martyn Moxon retiring I had a bit more responsibility on my shoulders. I had to try and keep the innings together at the top of the order and I felt I did that reasonably well.

"I put a bit more pressure on myself, telling myself I was a good enough player to do that job and not to let anyone else do it. I was trying not to be lazy, but be greedy and not give my wicket away as easily as I had in the past."

Some of Vaughan's spare time recently has been taken up by attending an ECB management course. "You have to sit in a classroom from nine till six and I've not done that for a number of years," he said. "It's harder than batting all day, that's for sure."

What he has learnt about handling the media has probably contributed to his thoughtful and measured responses to all questions, something that will stand him in good stead over the coming weeks; it might not be long before the senior England side is looking for a new, young captain let alone a new opener.

"I'll be very positive all the time," Vaughan said, looking ahead to the challenge. "Whether we're training or playing, there will always be a very high intensity if possible. And we'll also make sure we're enjoying it, because I think players play their best cricket if they're enjoying themselves. I'll try and make them all relaxed - I know it's pretty hard in tense situations, but I think with a relaxed mind and a relaxed body you will receive better responses from people.

"I'll no doubt have my weaknesses as a captain because it's a new thing for me, but I'm just going to be honest and I hope people are honest with me. If they think there's a weakness in something I'm doing I hope they'll come and tell me and I'll try and put that right. Obviously I hope I'm going to do a great job and we're very successful, but my ambition is to get into the England team and to do that it's going to be through the amount of runs I score, not how I captain the side."

Before then, Vaughan the football fan will be keeping a close eye on the reports his father will be faxing to him of his beloved Wednesday. "I'm hoping by the time I get back in early April that Wednesday will be in the FA Cup semi-finals," he said.

How, as a captain, would he have dealt with the kind of indiscipline Paolo Di Canio showed a few months ago? "It was a different kind of approach, I must admit," he said "But I wouldn't mind seeing him back in blue and white if I'm honest. So if he does read The Independent, will you tell him to come back?"



Tour of Zimbabwe and South Africa

M P Vaughan (Yorkshire, captain)

D L Maddy (Leicestershire, vice-captain)

M M Betts (Durham)

D A Cosker (Glamorgan)

A Flintoff (Lancashire)

S J Harmison (Durham)

P M Hutchison (Yorkshire)

R W T Key (Kent)

J D Lewry (Sussex)

M B Loye (Northamptonshire)

C M W Read (Nottinghamshire, wicketkeeper)

V S Solanki (Worcestershire)

G P Swann (Northamptonshire)

S D Thomas (Glamorgan)

M G C Windows (Gloucestershire)

Manager: Phil Neale

Coach: John Emburey


In Zimbabwe

16 Jan Country Districts (Harare)

18 Jan Select XI (Harare)

20-23 Jan Mashonaland (Harare)

26-29 Jan Presidents XI (Kwekwe)

2-6 Feb First Unofficial Test (Harare)

9-13 Feb Second Unofficial Test (Bulawayo)

16 Feb First One-Day International (Bulawayo)

18 Feb Second One-Day International (Harare)

20 Feb Third One-Day International (Harare)

In South Africa

25-28 Feb Gauteng Wanderers

4-8 March Presidents XI (tbc)