The Monday interview: Hollioake confident of punching his weight in England's one-day ring

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England leave for Lahore today to prepare for the four-nation Champions' Trophy in Sharjah with, for the first time, a team designed specifically for the one-day game - a concept embodied in the choice of Adam Hollioake as captain.

As our Cricket Correspondent discovered, the new man at the helm has forthright views which he is not afraid to share, a liking for the unorthodox and an allergy to losing - traits which are perfectly suited to the intense competition of limited-overs cricket.

For those who believe leaders to be born not made, Adam Hollioake, England's new one-day captain in Sharjah, is something of an anomaly. Unlike Michael Atherton, the man he replaces, there was no "Future England Captain" tag daubed on his cricket coffin by knowing team-mates. Instead, Hollioake, an admitted tearaway, wore his ambition on his sleeve, a place in sport where sweat mingles with dirt and the will to succeed tends to win few friends.

"I was never the sort of person like Athers, who was looked upon as captaincy material," he admits during a break from indoor practice at Old Trafford last week. "I've always been quite outspoken and had strong opinions. I do have standards and I'll never lie. I tell people what I think to their face."

As captains and personalities, Atherton and Hollioake are poles apart. While the Cambridge graduate is thoughtful and contained, Hollioake is all girded loins and rolled-up sleeves, a man whose heart beats to the sound of Holst's "Planets" rather than the "Hymn of Jesus."

Hollioake is not ambiguous, and just in case I've not grasped his philosophy he spells it out again. "In the Surrey dressing-room, I tell it how it is. I think it's my strongest asset as captain. The players know that when I say something, I mean it."

You tend to believe him, too. But while the open face - a glossy mag godsend that merges Keanu Reeves with George Clooney - is welcoming enough, there is something about the taut powerful body, that makes his viewpoint seem mightily persuasive. He also boxes, for fun - if fun is what you can call the split nose he recently inflicted on younger brother Ben, when the teenager had the temerity to get in the ring with him.

Not that Hollioake Snr, now 26, is in any way dictatorial. Instead, he encourages anyone who has an opinion, irrespective of rank, to voice it. As captain of England `A' in Australia last winter he deliberately sought the views of the youngest player, 19-year old Owais Shah.

It is not the only innovation he has introduced either and fed up with what he sees as the endemic complaining by county players, particularly Surrey ones, he has introduced the "Whingeing session".

These typically, take place the day before a match and are designed to help players get things off their chest without fear of retribution. They appear to have worked and he claims that The Oval dressing-room is now a very different place to the one he joined as a teenager.

Mind you, his captaincy at Surrey, while achieving results, has not always been viewed favourably. Indeed goings-on under the gasometer have had many traditionalists choking on their gin and tonics, and the county have long been accused of being loud and boorish by opponents and spectators alike.

"It's true," he acknowledges, shifting ominously in his chair, as he prepares to defend his corner. "We've got a lot of strong personalities in our side. Anyway, I'd rather my players showed emotion than walk about stony-faced all the time. I make no apologies for them being noisy. In fact I encourage that. Considering we're so unpopular with other clubs it's amazing how many other players want to join us. It sounds like jealousy to me.

"County cricket is too pally. I don't get people in my face when I'm playing. I don't know why. I can only think that they aren't confident enough to do it. I'm not advocating sledging, simply the need to express yourself and have a go. I want my players to take the same risk in an international game as they would in a county game. I can't see the point in being timid."

Shrewdly, he points to the different hats people are apt to wear on the matter, particularly in the media. "The England `A' side I captained in Australia was noisy. Yet the difference between them and Surrey is that Surrey receive bad publicity for it. When the `A' team were being rowdy and thrashing the Aussies in their back yard, everyone loved it."

It is a valid point, but with media attention likely to be stepped up on Hollioake and his team in Sharjah, surely it would be sensible to rein in one or two of the excesses?

A pause and a sigh, suggest he is thinking of a diplomatic answer, but he thinks better of it. "I'm the way I am. They've selected me to captain, so I don't see why I should change. I skippered the `A' tour as I skipper Surrey and I'm going to captain this side as I captained the `A' tour." Like Mrs Thatcher, the Iron Lady, he is clearly not for turning. At least not yet.

It is forthright stuff and you cannot help thinking that it is the Australian genes rather than the English public schoolboy (he went to St George's, Weybridge) speaking. But if his love of winning does not exactly confirm his antipodean roots, his pathological hatred of losing does, and he admits to being an appalling loser.

"I despise it. But he great thing about the squad going to Sharjah is that it is a group of players who have no experience of that. The other thing is that apart from three or four of them, not many have played much under Athers. That eases the pressure on me a bit. If it was the Test team I had to skipper... well that would be a different matter."

He is, he claims, surprised how long it has taken for two distinct squads for Test and one-day cricket to be used. "I think the players have recognised that for a long time. One-day cricket is just a totally different game, the mentality and tactics are different. In limited-over cricket I'm totally unorthodox, but when it comes to four-day and Test cricket, I'm one of the most orthodox players around."

"When I'm bowling in a one-day game, I'll mix the pace up a lot to keep the batsman guessing. I'll always bowl at the stumps too. I've no ambition of bowling the ball even one inch outside off stump, which is ideally where I want to bowl the majority of deliveries in the longer game."

If this sounds crazy, it is because any room outside off stump allows the batsman extra leverage and power to hit the ball, something the bowler is trying to prevent in the limited-overs game.

While supremely confident of his one-day role, Hollioake remains conscious of his unproven Test status. As a batsman who bowls, his cause was not helped by that glaring error of judgement against Australia at The Oval, when he allowed Shane Warne to clean bowl him for a duck, without even offering a stroke.

"When I saw the TV replay, I realised that it was probably one of the stupidest things I've ever done. But then it was the only time he got me out in about seven encounters during the summer. Anyway, I'd like to think I'm a strong enough character to deal with that. I know I haven't proved myself at Test level yet, but it isn't something that will keep me awake at night."

Did he feel, I wonder, that while both he and brother Ben - who also tours Sharjah but not the West Indies - can be accommodated together in a one-day side, there is probably only room for one of them in the Test team, and that ultimately - say in a year's time - they will both be competing for the same place?

The brows furrow slightly, before the eyes light up. "No, because Ben's not on the main tour," he says with a cackle that betrays more that a hint of sibling rivalry. Indeed so strong is their competitive nature, that stories surfaced during the summer about contests in the dressing- room urinals over who could pee the highest.

"Actually, he's a different player to me," says Adam steadfastly sticking to the cricket. "I'm really trying to establish myself as a batsman in the top six who bowls a bit, like Steve Waugh. Whereas Ben is more a proper all-rounder.

"At Surrey we're still trying to work out where his best batting position is. Even so, he's usually worth his place as either a batter or bowler which is what defines genuine all-rounders like Imran Khan, Ian Botham and Richard Hadlee. Mind you, only South Africa's Brian MacMillan currently fits that category, so it depends on your classification of all-rounder."

It is about as fond as he is prepared to get in public about little brother, who he feels should be left to cross his own ditches. "The best lessons you learn are from your own mistakes." Apparently, last year, Ben ran up pounds 600 worth of parking tickets outside the flat they share. "He's learning though," says Hollioake senior. "Not long ago he was on the phone sorting himself out a permit."

Mind you he is not totally immune to life's fripperies himself and according to certain team-mates in the England camp, Hollioake Snr can be something of a fashion victim.

This "weakness" is borne out by a boyish enthusiasm when the sunglasses get delivered, England's latest skipper laying claim to a limited edition pair designed by Michael Jordan and made from the latest, swanky, space- age alloy.

Looking cool is clearly something he invests both time and money on, and if a coterie of admirers is to be believed, the effort is not wasted. Which may explain, with only one full-length mirror to fight over, the sudden departure from the Surrey dressing-room of that other style horse, Chris Lewis.

And yet when he stops to reflect without the aid of a mirror, he is not surprised by his meteoric rise to prominence. "It's happened quickly, but it feels like a natural progression. Really I'm just a simple person who likes winning things. A shepherd, if you like, who speaks on behalf of the sheep."

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