Burning desire and fiery spirit are the essence of Hussain

England captaincy: Resignation brings tame demise for dedicated leader who was uncompromising in attitude towards fellow professionals
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The Independent Online

Nasser Hussain has always been impetuous. Since his first England tour to the West Indies in 1990 it has always been difficult to know how he would react to a situation but it has been the combination of this and his desperate desire to be successful that has made him the player he is and the captain he was. Without such ambition the 35-year-old would have been nothing more than a run-of-the-mill county cricketer. Instead he became one of this country's greatest sporting leaders.

Throughout his career Hussain has never been prepared to accept anything less than the best from himself or those around him and nothing has annoyed him more than watching cricketers turn up with the same faults in their game week after week.

I felt such traits and the intensity of the individual would not make him a good England captain when his name was banded about after Alec Stewart was sacked at the conclusion of England's disastrous 1999 World Cup campaign. My reasoning proved to be wrong. Hussain's attitude to captaincy and his methods may not have pleased everyone but he has been an excellent leader.

During his four years in charge Hussain led his side with a passion that was absent from any of the four England captains I played under. Through being honest and loyal to those who played under him and by being prepared to defend them and take the flak when it flew, Hussain won his players over.

His success came through combining these qualities with a shrewd, active mind and a win-at-all-costs attitude. A regret of mine is that I failed to experience playing under him.

There have been times when Hussain's emotional response to events on and off the field have led to him saying and doing things he may have regretted. But like one of his predecessors, Michael Atherton, he has seldom admitted these to either his colleagues or the public. When Hussain makes his mind up about something his pride will not allow him to alter it. There would have been nothing Michael Vaughan, his immediate replacement, Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, or David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, could have said to change his mind once he had decided on his future.

It was inevitable that the success of Vaughan as England's one-day captain would have an effect on Hussain. Having been given the power to control the future of English cricket he was never going to be happy sharing it.

Hussain would have little idea of what a part-time captain felt like until he returned to the helm after spending seven weeks on the outside. On his arrival in Birmingham he would have immediately been aware that the team in front of him felt different and was no longer his. With such feelings it is understandable that he struggled to motivate himself at mid-off on Thursday when his opposite number, Graeme Smith, and Herschelle Gibbs were taking his side apart.

During the tours and Test matches I played with Hussain we had a love-hate relationship. As two strong-minded characters we would often clash over issues and this would result in a heated row in which we would tell each other exactly what we thought of them. During one such row, on England's 1994 tour of the West Indies, Hussain threatened to wrap his Gray Nicholls bat round my head.

At the start of that tour, much to his frustration, Nasser was still struggling to cement the place he felt he deserved in the England side and during one of our warm-up games in Antigua things came to a head. Hussain and Alec Stewart were involved in a mid-wicket mess-up where one of the two would be run out. In a dash to the stumps Hussain beat Stewart leaving the Surrey batsman to make his way back to the dressing-room. The match went on, Nasser scored some runs and England won. Everybody was happy.

Stewart and I decided this was a good opportunity to wind Hussain up and had a deliberate conversation about his selfish reaction and what may have happened in the dressing room had it been he who was run out. Hussain's reaction was to come over to me and say if I ever insinuated again that he was selfish he would punch my lights out. I suggested that a man of his stature may struggle to do this, to which his threat increased to walloping me with his bat.

He then stormed out of the dressing room and waited for the rest of of us on the team bus. I deliberately went and sat next to him on the bus to tell him to grow up and smooth things over. His eyes were glazed and it was a waste of time. To date I have yet to be struck and it is something we laugh about now.

I was not the only bowler that Hussain riled. On England's 1998-99 tour of Australia Darren Gough and I had a huge row with him over the attitude he had towards bowlers. Gough and I told him in no uncertain terms that he did not have a clue how to get the best out of them and if he ever became the England captain, he had better look out for a couple of new ones because we were not prepared to play under him.

I may have had the better of him in the Caribbean but on this occasion I picked a fight with the wrong man. Five months later he was England captain and even though this argument would not have affected his thinking, my Test career was over.

By resigning Hussain will fail to reach several of the goals he set himself at the start of the season. In an article he was much criticised for, Hussain stated he wanted to win more Test matches and captain England in more games than any of predecessors. Standing down, however, increases the chance of him reaching the one he is likely to cherish most ­ 100 Test caps for England.

HUSSAIN: THE LIFE AND TIMES

1968: Born Madras, India, 28 March.

1987: Makes Essex debut.

1990: England debut in fifth Test in Antigua, Plays with broken wrist and misses most of next season.

1993: Earns England recall for last four Tests of Ashes series.

1994: On England tour to West Indies but fails to play any Tests.

1996: Recalled to full England side.

1997: Hits career-best 207 against Australia at Edgbaston.

1998: Century in final Test in Antigua as England lose series 3-1. Plays all five Tests in 3-1 series victory over South Africa.

1998-9: Is England's most successful batsman in Ashes series defeat in Australia.

1999: Tops England batting averages in disappointing World Cup campaign. Appointed England captain but loses four-Test series to New Zealand 2-1.

1999-2000: Enjoyed a highly successful tour of South Africa, but England are beaten in Test series.

2000: Starts England revival with 1-0 win in short series against Zimbabwe. Then leads England to first series victory over West Indies on home soil since 1969.

2000: Secured a 1-0 series win over Pakistan in Karachi, becoming the first foreign captain to triumph in the National Stadium, in December.

2001: England win 2-1 in Sri Lanka after losing the first Test in Galle. England lose Ashes 4-1 and three-match Test series in India 1-0.

2002: Hits 106 as England win first Test in New Zealand but series is drawn. England win series against Sri Lanka 2-0. Hits two centuries in drawn Test series against India.

2002-3: Leads England to a disastrous 4-1 Ashes defeat in Australia. England bow out of the World Cup and Hussain announces retirement as one-day captain, although he says he wants to continue as Test skipper.

28 July: Steps down as England Test captain with Michael Vaughan taking over.

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