Nasser Hussain last night announced his wholly unexpected decision to resign as England's Test captain, handing over to Michael Vaughan with immediate effect. The Yorkshireman, who has led England's one-day side this summer, will take the reins for the second Test against South Africa at Lord's, starting on Thursday.
Hussain, who has been at the helm since 1999, made his decision public after the first Test at Edgbaston, dominated by South Africa, ended in a draw following the intervention of rain on the final afternoon with England on 110 for 1 in pursuit of a target of 321 to win.
The timing of the announcement came as a surprise, especially given that he could have made a clean break before the South Africa series began amid speculation about how long he would continue. But Hussain said last night he needed to test how he felt back in the job before finally making up his mind.
He admitted he felt "tired and stale in the job" and knew while he was standing in the field on Thursday, as England's essentially inexperienced attack struggled in vain to contain South Africa's batsmen, that the time was right to step down.
"It is not a job you just carry on doing, taking the money, in which you just plod along standing at mid-off, safe in the knowledge that you are captain and your position is assured," he said. "I've always felt it is a job you have to do 100 per cent full-on and I'm afraid it is just time for a change. I felt standing in the field on Thursday that I was not quite the captain England were looking for any more.
"With all due respect to Zimbabwe, who I led the side against earlier in the summer, that was not a series in which I had to dig particularly deep because the bowlers were doing my talking for me, so to speak. But on a flat wicket against seriously good batsmen in this match, I had to go back to thinking of all the old cunning plans, whether to go round the wicket or over the wicket, bowl bouncers or whatever. I felt I was probably a bit tired and stale.
"Four years in the job can become very repetitive. It tests you deeply, and mentally I felt I was not quite on the ball enough. It was not a knee-jerk reaction by any means but something I had been thinking about for a while, since the end of the World Cup in fact. The only problem then was that no one knew who the successor would be.
"I didn't decide before this series because I wanted to go out and be on a Test match field again against serious opposition and see how deep I could dig. Unfortunately I felt I was not good enough."
Hussain revealed that he had consulted the chairman of selectors, David Graveney, before announcing his intentions but had not spoken to the coach, Duncan Fletcher, "because I knew he would try to persuade me to change my mind."
He said he had every confidence in Vaughan as his successor and admitted that the opening batsman's immediate rapport with the players had influenced his decision, saying that he felt "like an outsider" when he returned to the dressing-room this week.
"Vaughany and the boys seemed to enjoy those one-dayers and I felt a little bit like an outsider when I came back," he said. "My style of captaincy is about aggression I feel I have to give people a kick up the backside now and again, and to see people enjoying a different style of captaincy made it difficult for me to go out there and be something completely different from Michael, even though it would be natural to me to do so.
"But I feel Michael has shown himself to be a very capable leader. I have been waiting for someone to hold his hand up and I think Michael has done that. From what I have seen of Michael he has great energy and enthusiasm and has all the ingredients to be a successful captain. There are young lads in there who want to play for him and the last thing they want is a tired leader.
"But I'm pleased that I don't think I ever lost the team. I never walked out without the team 100 per cent behind me and that's one reason why I've taken the decision now. There have been a lot of things written about my position and Michael's and I did not want that to happen."
Vaughan said he was as taken aback as anyone to learn that Hussain was standing down. "Like everyone else in the dressing-room I was surprised by his decision," Vaughan said. "He has been a hugely inspirational captain and no one cares more about the England team than he does.
"I did not expect the Test captaincy to come around this summer but I feel ready for the challenge and would be more than happy to have Nasser alongside me in the dressing-room as a senior player."
Hussain led the side 45 times in Tests, winning 17 and suffering 15 defeats. His pride, he said, lay in having made England hard to defeat.
"In Test cricket we have become a very difficult team to beat, although we have not been so good in one-day cricket," he said. "In Tests, however, with the exception of Australia, I would say everyone would regard us as a talented team."
As for his own future, the 35-year-old Essex batsman still believes he has more mileage in him as an England player.
"I just want to go back to being a batsman now," he said. "Whether I achieve the goal of playing in 100 Tests, which is still an ambition, will depend on how mentally tough I am over the next few weeks. I have to score some runs, and if I do that I'll be selected like anyone else."
Hussain needs 16 more caps to reach his century and is at least guaranteed one more after being named in an unchanged England side for Lord's. Robert Key is added to the squad as batting cover for Marcus Trescothick, who made a half-century yesterday despite suffering pain from a finger broken in the field.
Graveney added his own tribute to Hussain after announcing the Lord's line-up. "Nasser has been an outstanding leader and it has been a privilege of mine to work with him," he said.
Mike Gatting, a former England captain, was not sure how comfortable Hussain would feel playing alongside a new captain."It is a difficult one for him to resolve," he said. "Graham Gooch [also then a former England captain] and I played for Michael Atherton in Australia and it worked out fine. Nasser has to play it by ear and see how it works."Reuse content