The old artist of England painted an astonishing picture yesterday. Far from declaring that he would return in a blaze of glory, far from imploring the selectors to pick him, Michael Vaughan merely averred that it would be rather jolly if he could take on Australia one more time.
It had been generally assumed that the captain who brought the Ashes home after 16 years and who finally resigned last August in a veil of tears was desperate to be recalled. Not a bit of it to listen to him yesterday sitting at Lord's as cool as the day was warm.
"You're pushing on to a guy that's really laid-back about it all, you really are," he said. "If I don't play for England I will be playing for Yorkshire the whole year and I love playing for Yorkshire. If I play well I might play for England and be part of an Ashes contest and I'll be a great bonus for the team. But if not I'll go and play for Yorkshire. That's what I am now, a Yorkshire player."
Until eight months ago, of course, he was the England captain. It was widely expected that he would still be in office for this year's Ashes. Everything changed when he quit the job. He was drained, he needed a rest; he now has to regain his place in the side solely as a batsman.
"I know that to do that I have to score runs in the next fortnight," he said. "I wouldn't want to be picked purely for my experience. It's very important for me to get runs because I want Yorkshire to be successful. If taking part in the Ashes happens it will be fantastic because I know that I will have played well to do that but I'm not obsessive about it. I'd have told you by now if I was."
And it seems he is ready to go on in this fashion, that it is not simply Australia that is driving him on. He might have felt that he had unfinished business. After he led England to their great triumph in 2005 he was missing when they blew the defence Down Under barely 18 months later and lost 5-0. He spent a year recuperating from a career-threatening knee injury, determined to resume the captaincy. Now he might be content to tootle around the shires if necessary.
"I will play for as long as I'm enjoying the game, whether it's for Yorkshire or another team in the winter," he said. "I have been approached by quite a few teams around the world to play for them and that's a definite possibility.
I enjoy playing cricket. You're a long time retired. I always look back to Martin Johnson when he won the Rugby World Cup in 2003, he went back and played for Leicester for two or three years. Why can't I go and play county cricket for two or three years?
"I love the game, when you lose that love of the game no matter where you play. Look, it might come at the end of the summer, I might think I don't want to do that any more, but at the minute I honestly think I can see myself playing for at least two or three more years. I really hope it's for England."
He was not actually at Lord's to talk about his batting, although he must have known what to expect. He was there to launch his career as an artist. The first thought that occurred was that he should not give up the day job and the second was that his batting was already an art form that needed no embellishment.
But his works of art have a distinctive feel about them which impressed one passing fine arts graduate. They were created mostly by hitting, but occasionally bowling or throwing, a cricket ball at a canvas. In doing so, Vaughan has recreated some of his great Test innings, not least the three legendary hundreds he scored against Australia half a cricketing lifetime ago.
The concept is called Artballing and some of the work is bizarrely evocative. The works are going on sale for between £2,000 and £30,000 and some of the proceeds will go to two charities. The stencil of his hands holding the Ashes urn surrounded by red cricket balls recalls one of the greatest moments in all English cricket.
What those in attendance wanted to know, what the England selectors must decree and surely what Vaughan, for all his relaxed demeanour, is whether it can all be recreated for real.Reuse content