Vaughan revives love for game

Former England captain desperate for Test return after break from the side
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The Independent Online

When the name Michael Vaughan is mentioned what images come to mind? Is it the sight of the former England captain being soaked in champagne as he triumphantly lifted the Ashes at The Oval in 2005, or of him effortlessly and elegantly driving a half volley through extra cover for four?

For many the strongest picture, because it is the most recent, will be that of him tearfully resigning as England captain earlier this year. That took people by surprise because Vaughan rarely seemed out of control during his five years in charge. Vaughan looked a broken man as he left Loughborough that afternoon.

The selectors showed faith in him by controversially awarding him a central contract, but he informed them he was unavailable for the current tour of India: rumours emerged that he was about to quit cricket for life in the Sky commentary box. Vaughan quickly killed the gossip but his love for the game had temporarily disappeared.

It re-emerged by the pool at his holiday home in Barbados. The time away from cricket seems to have done him good: he appeared upbeat, happy and fit as he watched England fall to a fourth successive one-day defeat to India on Monday evening. "At the time they were selecting the squad for India I didn't think I'd want to play cricket before Christmas," admitted Vaughan (right) in Bangalore. "But three or four weeks ago I was sat on a sun-lounger and said to Nicola [Vaughan's wife] I've got to get out and play, I'm ready.

"I immediately rang Peter Moores [the England coach] and asked if I could go on the England Performance tour here. He said absolutely, that I should do whatever I need to get back into contention."

Vaughan is determined that the final images of him in an England shirt will not be those seen at Loughborough. "I'd like to finish my career by contributing with the bat, that is what I am looking forward to," he said. "One of my major strengths as England captain was that I hid a lot from a lot of people. Being a captain is acting and I did that well at times. Certainly for the last six months I had a bit of a mask on and it came down during that press conference. It is not a nice feeling when you cry in front of millions but that was just me at the time.

"I want to get back in to the England side. You come and see a crowd like this, and I know I haven't played one-day cricket for a while, but you just feel the buzz and that is what I love most of all – representing England. It is going to be difficult because there are some good players in that squad, but I know if I get my game going I can force my way back in. I'll bat anywhere, but I'd hope it is in the top six!

"I'm happy with the way things have gone since I stood down. After I resigned it was the first time that I'd watched the 2005 Ashes DVD. Watching it you realise you've done something special. I was always planning for the next series and trying to improve the team or myself and so the break gave me a chance to look back. I also received a phenomenal number of letters, which brought back a lot of good memories."

If Vaughan is to regain his place it will have quite a bit to do with his successor Kevin Pietersen, who he believes has made a positive start. "Everyone knows I'm mates with KP but he hasn't said anything to me about wanting me back for January or next summer," said Vaughan. "If I can get a score out here then I'll be looking to push for the West Indies tour in January. If not, then I'll have to start well for Yorkshire next summer.

"This is the ultimate challenge for a captain, along with Australia. He'll make mistakes as you always do, but I'm sure he'll learn. The thing that I've been really impressed with is that England look like they're in good spirits, and when you're 4-0 down you can easily lose your spirit. It is your job as captain to try and keep them high. From that point of view he is doing a good job.

"In these next three one-dayers we're going to have to get some kind of victory to give us a bit of a boost because the Tests are coming. If we can win one or two games it will give us a lift for the Test series and hopefully we can perform well in those two games." Once a captain, always a captain: they can never let go.

England find it's good to talk

England controversially opted for rest rather than practice on the eve of today's fifth one-dayer against India. For many, with the side 4-0 down, the move will seem preposterous. However, practice is only beneficial to players when it is performed with enthusiasm and Cuttack, the venue for this morning's game, is well over an hour away from the team hotel. England may be losing but it is not through a lack of effort or commitment.

"We had a meeting where we talked and identified areas that have not gone quite right, and I think we will get more out of discussing particular aspects of our game than practice," explained Owais Shah.

For England, Stephen Harmison is set to replace James Anderson. India have suggested they will make changes but will be equally keen to destroy England's confidence before next month's Test series.