Cricket: Was Atherton to blame? Former captains give their verdict

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Mike Brearley

I didn't watch a ball bowled on the last day of the First Test against New Zealand and was not aware of the result until a few hours later. I had assumed we would win. It was surprising because of course you would expect to get out a No 11. I was disappointed not only for the captain but for the whole team. It can be difficult to realise but playing a five-day match is like a campaign. It demands a lot, and to have got to that point where victory looked likely must be demoralising. The captain is aware what is expected of him. He knows the buck stops with him. Little things can go wrong. I read somewhere that the slips were too far back given the state of pitch. This is a hobby horse of mine. You'd be surprised that slips aren't sure of the best place to stand.

Mike Denness

There are probably many things that could have been done in Auckland, but then we have hindsight. Perhaps this side doesn't have good enough opening bowlers but it seems strange that Dominic Cork was used more sparingly than Craig White. But if plan A fails you've got to be prepared to try plan B. As for Atherton's way with the team on the pitch, there are times to be a nice captain, times to be very hard. He's still got the ear of the dressing room, it's said, which is important, but I can't help thinking that there are times when some of them don't wear the three lions with sufficient pride. I sympathise with Mike; it's a lonely job. There are times when last-wicket pairs put on 100 but the truth is that from that position we should have won the game.

Mike Gatting

When I watched the match on the first morning all I could say was: "Oh my God!" But we picked ourselves up and I thought we would win on the last morning. You just don't have situations like that frequently. It happened to me in a county match and you end up thinking: "What's to be done?" But a Test, that's much more wearing. It would have been very intense when the last wicket refused to budge. As captain you make the field changes, the bowling changes, and if it doesn't work you're the one who's going to have the finger pointed at you. Mike's realistic, he'll accept that. You've got the match won and then it goes wrong. Very disappointing that. Still, when my son saw the headlines he thought we'd lost. We didn't.

Interviews: Stephen Brenkley

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