Cricket: Why it was a job too far

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IT WAS a difficult, heart- searching decision to resign the captaincy of Middlesex, one of the last acts in a tough season. Being appointed three years ago was a great honour and I have done it with unstinting pride. Giving it up did not come easily.

Middlesex are a young side in transition. The club has had two coaches in two years, three in three. The captain had to be able to give 100 per cent to the task. Whatever people have made of my leadership, and no captain is going to please everyone - no captain has the full range of skills - nobody can accuse me of not giving the job everything.

In looking forward to next year I concluded that I could no longer do that. The county have awarded me a benefit and in the nature of these things that is bound to divert some of my attention. I want to do myself proper credit as a player and the captaincy I felt, in the end, would be a job too far. I did not give it up lightly and as I said in my resignation statement I would love to be considered again.

That is not to say it would be the year after next. I certainly have no right to expect that. I have enjoyed being captain but the size of the job was hardly eased by my being away so often on England duty in the past two years. In both years we started well, had a few wins and then the rhythm was interrupted by my absences.

Middlesex will start life under a new captain in the second division of the restructured County Championship. Five years ago that would have been unthinkable. These things, it goes to show, move in cycles. It is hugely disappointing for such a big county, but we have not helped ourselves by signing some players from outside, if only as cover, as Surrey have done.

Our seam bowling has depended hugely on the herculean efforts of Gus Fraser, with Richard Johnson suffering from injuries and Jamie Hewitt being out of sorts. But this has still been a happy team to captain. The boys have given their all and they have not been miserable to lead.

And at the very end I do believe we have unearthed a couple of opening batsmen at last. We have not had a steady, reliable pairing since Desmond Haynes and Michael Roseberry were together five years ago. But in the past few matches Andrew Strauss and Ben Hutton have looked the part.

Here are two young men who play straight, who get forward and who have some shots in their locker. They look to have the right stuff and I am optimistic that given a fair wind (and some decent pitches!) they can help to take some pressure off the middle order next summer. With myself and Justin Langer at three and four we should be able to get some runs.

Life in division two may be hard to accept. It may be harder to accept considering that one will have to face Shoaib Akhtar and Glenn McGrath. The Australian has signed for Worcestershire, where we have been involved in our last county game. Vikram Solanki scored a high-class century for the home side. He is 22 and a batsman I have always admired. He has always been quick with some scintillating shots. He is scoring runs now because he is learning more when he should play them.

Solanki deserves his selection for the England one-day squad. It may be just the way to blood him in international cricket. He has a lot of flair and we shall begin to see later in the winter if he can go further still.

A long summer draws to a close. The highlight from an English point of view was Alex Tudor's swashbuckling innings which won the First Test. It was a pity there were so few others before or after. As for myself, I'm off to spend the winter with my family, watching Arsenal and maybe exhibiting my midfield skills in the Gunners' celebrity team.

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