Given the shortage of candidates, it must have come as an immense relief to England yesterday when Paul Collingwood said he would agree to consider becoming vice-captain. This being England and there being all of 12 days to the First Test, no discussions have yet taken place but at least they now have somewhere to turn.
"If the opportunity came along I would look at it and consider it," said Collingwood without conveying the impression that he was about to tear down all barricades to ensure the post is his. "I would be interested, I'm a senior member of the side and my role is as big as at any time. You have to set the right example."
The role of vice-captain in an international cricket team is less onerous than being Vice-President of the United States. As long as the commander-in-chief is present you will be tolerated, listened to and not always heard. One pulled fetlock later and your finger may be on the button.
England have considered the office of such unimportance that they have virtually discarded it. The last time they formally flirted with a vice-captain it ended in farce when Andrew Flintoff, nominally second in command during the last World Cup, went off on drunken pedalo ride and had his stripes removed.
But times have changed again lately. Andrew Strauss, the new captain, has already made clear that somebody must be nominated to take over in the highly undesirable event of his being hors de combat. The declaration will be made in days. The world waits. The fact is the options are not wide-ranging. Two of the team, Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen have already been captain. The next most senior player is Collingwood unless Stephen Harmison is counted and in this context that will not happen.
Alastair Cook may rate a mention in dispatches but the probability is that he needs to concentrate on his own form. Had Ian Bell cemented his place at number three he might have been considered – erstwhile coach Peter Moores thought he had the credentials to be captain one day – but it would be much too risky a prospect at present.
Collingwood it is likely to be. "It's hard enough having the technique I have going out and trying to succeed without thinking of too many other things. But Strauss is going to need a lot of help over the coming weeks. A lot has happened in the last few weeks."
Collingwood resigned the one-day captaincy at the same time Michael Vaughan quit as Test captain last August. Conspiracy theories recently have suggested that this was because he has an issue with Moores.
"I gave up because it was mentally draining," he said, "I wasn't getting runs in the Test match arena and I love playing for England, so I needed to concentrate 100 per cent on my own game. It hasn't yet been discussed, there are a few options I think – and I don't see why Freddie wouldn't be an option." On the last point both Flintoff and the team management might see why.
The team had a gym session yesterday and will have their first nets today. In common with the theme of the week, Collingwood was effusive about the squad's togetherness and general jollity. The flight over, he said, had offered an opportunity to get everybody together and sit next to each other. "There were a lot of discussions going on and it was a great opportunity to realise that things aren't as bad as the papers have been saying. There has been talk of rifts but the atmosphere is superb." Bonding at 30,000 feet. Thank goodness it fell short of joining the mile high club.