Cricket: Stewart's success based on clarity

Cricket: England's captain is deservedly reaping the rewards of his meticulous approach to leading his country

WHEN ALEC Stewart went up to collect the spoils of victory on Wednesday, he was offered the winner's cheque first. Mindful of the jubilant crowd, and the 12-year wait endured by them and cricket supporters everywhere, he asked instead to be handed the trophy, which he brandished with glee. Symbolism is a powerful part of the Stewart make-up.

Much is written about the avarice of the modern sportsman, so a tale to the contrary is always heartening. Not that Stewart likes money any less than the next man, only that during emotive moments as powerful as those on Monday, he has the decorum to get his priorities right.

It would not be churlish to say that Stewart has probably spent a long time dreaming of the moment that eventually fell his way at 11.30 am at Headingley. Losing out to Michael Atherton, in the captaincy contest to replace Graham Gooch in 1993, he had never quite given up hope.

He even managed to overcome his initial envy, going on to become a trusted lieutenant before eventually being replaced by Nasser Hussain, his closest rival when the captaincy was up for grabs at the beginning of the season.

And yet Stewart has clearly always believed that fate would somehow deal him the winning hand. When England teetered on the precipice and followed on at Old Trafford, Stewart, after a moving dressing-room speech, went out and scored 164.

Although made in slightly less demanding circumstances that Atherton's epic in Johannnesburg three years earlier - at Manchester South Africa were missing both Shaun Pollock and Lance Klusener - Stewart's knock did more than most to make the game safe. As the post-series analysis has revealed, all subsequent roads lead back to Old Trafford. It is from there that the Stewart destiny began to gather momentum.

Inevitably, comparisons between captains current and past, are sure to be made, with perhaps the more uncharitable claiming that Stewart has more of what it takes than his predecessor. Such claims would be unfair. More accurate might be the assessment that as captain, Stewart simply reaped the benefits England had been promising for some time.

In some ways his captaincy is an extension of what went before. But, as players, there is a whole ethos between Stewart's silky extravagance with the bat and Atherton's dour collecting of runs. Yet if both are revered by team-mates, they are also tough, uncompromising characters, whose self- sufficiency leaves few able to claim an intimate knowledge of them.

Where Stewart does score over Atherton, other than in the grooming stakes, is that he appears happier talking in front of the players. One of David Gower's weaknesses as a captain was that he assumed most players - having become good enough to play for England - knew what was expected of them. As a result communication was minimal.

Stewart, on the other hand, leaves nothing to chance and he has already admitted that he is unafraid to state the "bleedin' obvious" to his charges, and then repeat it. He is more demonstrative too, and his presence on the field even when employing standard field settings, tends to attract more attention. By contrast, Atherton liked to conduct matters with the minimum of fuss.

There are few grey areas when it comes to captaining your country at cricket. Unless a series is drawn, you are either a hero or a villain and it is perhaps worth remembering that at Old Trafford, England were in the words of Angus Fraser: "A ball away from ignominy".

Away from cricket, Stewart has had to cope with serious illness to his wife and his mother, now both happily recovered. When the precariousness of life is pushed under your nose, you tend not to worry about whether keeping wicket, batting and captaining are too demanding.

Like Graham Gooch, he is fit and determined enough to do the job for several more years, and providing England do not capitulate in Australia, the suggestion that his appointment was that of a stop-gap, no longer holds water.

Whatever his motives, and a mixture of overt patriotism and the desire to show off occasionally are among them, Stewart is a populist, and he will be revelling in England's triumph. Rightly so, too, for South Africa are a tough side to beat. After allowing the visitors to take a 1-0 lead, his team can be proud of their comeback.

Credit has to spread and there is a management structure of coaches, psychologists and fitness trainers, as well as the players to be included in the roll of honour.

Nevertheless, while England had already become better able to withstand the pressure encountered at Test level, they at last appear to have proved able to convert it into winning ways.

There can be no doubting that England played potent cricket at Trent Bridge and Headingley, dovetailing their performances as all good teams must if they are to be consistent. It should get better too, provided Graham Thorpe returns soon and England are able to find a top-class spinner.

But before people begin to think that world domination is upon us, remember: a month ago England were as close as you can get to having a fruitless summer. Two Tests later, though, the nation is rejoicing. Perhaps it is successfully crossing such fine lines that is the making of great captains.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Maintenance Person

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent