Reeve remains pivotal and whether or not he takes the field, his personality is stamped on his team like a sponsor's logo

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An astonishing storm appeared last Saturday, tucked away in a county report in another newspaper. It said that there were some people on the Warwickshire committee who "would prefer Dermot Reeve not to be captain next season". They are "thinking of using his testimonial season next year as an excuse for making a change". The reason? "His unorthodoxy... has proved unpopular in some quarters."

My first thought was that this could not be true. But it was written by a respected reporter, and since it appeared, no writ has been served, no denial issued. So it would appear that one of the most successful captains in county history is in danger of being fired - for the very thing that makes him a good captain.

The debt Warwickshire owe Dermot Reeve is like the debt Margaret Thatcher owed Rupert Murdoch - hard to pin down, but enormous. When Reeve left Sussex and sauntered into Edgbaston in 1988, the county had won one trophy in 15 years - the Sunday League, in 1988. Within 18 months of his arrival, they had added the NatWest, and Reeve had become the first player to be man of the match for two different counties in the September final.

When he took over as captain, in 1993, they won the NatWest again, making 322 to beat Sussex in the greatest of all one-day finals. People remember the last ball, when two were needed and Roger Twose was facing for the first time. But the previous five balls were thumped and squirted for four, two, two, four and one by Reeve to finish 81 not out. As Playfair Cricket Annual, not usually an excitable voice, put it: "Perhaps only Dermot Reeve could have visualised a classic encounter after his bowlers had been ravaged for the highest total in any Lord's final."

The Warwickshire badge shows a bear and ragged staff, and the staff Reeve inherited was ragged - plenty of talent, but more odd-job men than stars. If a game needed to be taken by the scruff of the neck, they tended to leave the job to Allan Donald or Tom Moody. But that 1993 victory was achieved without an overseas player, and it convinced the others that anything was possible. From 16th in the Championship that year, they went straight to the top, and for good measure they won the Benson and Hedges Cup and the Sunday League, and reached the NatWest final.

People muttered about flashes and pans, but now Warwickshire are in contention for another three trophies. Naturally, the credit has to be shared. Bob Woolmer was a visionary manager - so much so that some members of the committee were probably relieved to see him go. His successor, Phil Neale, has given an object lesson in how to follow a hard act. The chief executive, Dennis Amiss, gets high marks for appointing both men, and letting them get on with it. The vice-captain, Tim Munton, led the team in one more Championship game than Reeve last year, with even greater success. And Brian Lara galvanised the whole club.

The captain, however, remains the pivotal figure. And whether or not Reeve is fit to take the field, his personality -restless, jaunty, forever improvising - is stamped on his team like a sponsor's logo.

He is outstanding in three departments of captaincy. He has the knack of motivating others, and promoting teamwork without losing individuality. He leads by example, with vital runs, timely wickets, and fearless close fielding - last year, he took enough catches in eight appearances to be Warwickshire's leading fielder in the Championship.

He is scientific about preparation. With Woolmer, he insisted that all his players work on the sweep and the reverse sweep, because they make one-day fields much harder to set. The results tore up the rule that states that spinners are economical in the one-day game. In 1993 Warwickshire scored about 3.5 runs per over of spin; in 1994, 4.85. If you are wondering who worked out this obscure stat, it was Reeve himself.

His ability to get up the opposition's nose has been known to extend to his team-mates. On his last England tour, the disastrous one to India and Sri Lanka in 1993, Reeve went everywhere with a camcorder, and so irritated one senior player that he is said to have come close to using the camera to rearrange its owner's face.

The irony is that Reeve is the kind of player committees usually like, the one who makes maximum use of limited talent. The reason the burghers of Edgbaston apparently can't see this is that what lifts Reeve out of the ordinary is his imagination, a quality which some in county cricket regard as a vice.

For all his cockiness, Reeve is capable of humility. When Warwickshire won the Championship, he stood aside to let Munton lift the pennant. When The Cricketer asked him recently what his ambition was, he said simply, to be picked for the 1996 World Cup. He fully deserves it. He played his part in the team that reached the final in 1992, and he remains one of the top five one-day players in the country all of whom should be on a flight to South Africa at Christmas to refresh a weary England.

If people in positions of power at Warwickshire do not think he has done enough to retain the captaincy, it is clear what they should do. Resign, and take their ovine thinking out of cricket.

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