March 2009
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Miles Jupp: Captaincy competency

March 12th, 2009 by Miles Jupp in England, International, Test cricket and tagged , ,

I have been surprised by praise heaped upon Andrew Strauss as a result of him presiding over a series that was both moderately disastrous and phenomenally dull.

Yes, he’s scored a bucket-load of runs but he’s also inherited that peculiarly English knack of not knowing when to declare. Some, like David Gower and Andrew Flintoff, thought they had enough runs on the board and found themselves crushed. Mike Atherton managed to put Graeme Hick into a sulk from which he never really recovered.

Strauss’s apparent ruthlessness when it comes to making tough selection decisions has surprised many, especially those who base their opinion on his performances at press conferences. If you happen to speak with a voice that sounds both posh and friendly, then people often assume that you will be a walkover. The reality is that, rightly or wrongly, people who sound exactly like that have led most of our invading forces over the last 200 years.

What Strauss is being applauded for, it seems, is his avoidance of being utterly awful. I don’t know anything about being a good captain. My own captaincy record is played four, won three, drawn one – but these are misleading statistics. On each victorious occasion somebody played a big innings and then somebody else took a bundle of wickets. Other team members were never short on advice, solicited or otherwise, so I don’t recall having to think a great deal.

I wasn’t even particularly disciplined. On one occasion I arrived late for a game to discover that I was only the third member of our team who had turned up at all. The other two had opened the batting and defended furiously for half an hour while stealing nervous looks in the direction of the boundary waiting for back up before they could play a few shots.

On another occasion I won the toss and elected to bowl first and then halfway to the boundary remembered we’d all agreed that we should bat first. I simply told the rest of the team that I’d lost the toss and that we’d been asked to field.

So I’m definitely not qualified to know what makes a great captain. But in a series from which we have learnt and taken almost nothing, that Straussy is not an awful captain is perhaps news worth celebrating.

Miles Jupp is an actor, comedian and cricket fan

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