Cricket: Wide variety of options for life beyond Gooch: Who will lead England to success? Derek Hodgson searches for fresh hope

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The Independent Online
A RECALL for David Gower, as vice-captain to a younger man, is being offered as one possible solution to the leadership question now facing English cricket. Pleas by Ted Dexter and Keith Fletcher are not expected to dissuade Graham Gooch from resigning the captaincy some time in the next 48 hours. Fletcher, as he repeated on Friday, would prefer Gooch to stay in charge for the last two Tests, at Edgbaston and the Oval.

But after the terrible mauling England have received from Australia in the present series, Gooch is likely to stand down, as he promised before the Lord's Test, 'when I believe someone else could do a better job'. Gooch, 40 last Friday, will do his duty by England as gallantly as any colour sergeant-major at Rorke's Drift but he may now feel that a heavily defeated team needs new initiatives and new motivation. Whoever the new captain is, if he asks Gooch to soldier on as a batsman, he undoubtedly will.

As to his successor, Fletcher is believed to prefer Mike Gatting while several senior TCCB figures want to make the big leap to the next generation and name Mike Atherton. The difficulty is that the next assignment is to the West Indies, themselves embroiled in a reshaping process.

Gatting has seen it all, and done it all, before but is he now a good enough player to compensate, in the board's eyes, for past misdemeanours?

Atherton, as a captain, has little experience beyond Cambridge University. Alec Stewart is Surrey's captain, has been England's vice-captain but is regarded in some areas as being too closely associated with failure. Nor is his place in the team secure.

As the only man in the team to wear the traditional England cap, instead of the baseball caps and wide brims favoured, Atherton has taken some jibes in the dressing-room, but he is his own man. He is not given to courting easy popularity and preserves an isolation that will appeal to some voices in the selection process.

If Atherton were to be asked to take the team into the cauldron in the New Year he would need some experience on hand. Gooch will not tour, Gatting might not wish to, in the ranks, if he has just led Middlesex to the Britannic Championship; that could leave a place open to one man who would be a highly popular choice as vice-captain, David Gower, who might enjoy being asked to take one more leap through the hoop of fire. One of the last two Tests against Australia might be the oppprtunity to try out the partnership.

While England twisted and turned on Australia's spit yesterday afternoon, both the TCCB and Yorkshire were congratulating themselves on a highly lucrative series. Headingley has been a virtual sell-out for the first three days and, with pounds 970,000 in the kitty before a ball was bowled, Yorkshire are expecting to announce the first provincial pounds 1m gate today.

It says much for the marketing departments of both the board and Yorkshire that they can persuade Tykes to part with their cash to watch an outclassed England team that contains not a single Yorkshireman. What would have happened if England had selected the three Yorkshiremen Fletcher said he would like to see in the national side? Presumably the queues would have stretched back to City Square.

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