Saturday 20 December 2008

Captaincy, the time for love

Mike Atherton's writing is a lot like his batting: spiky, unpretty, rarely epic. At times he seems almost too detached. On occasion though he forgets his Nietzschian struggles with an ambivalent universe and produces something like this, a sweetly observed piece on Kevin Pietersen and Mike Brearley in India. 

Captains usually look, consciously or not, to fashion teams in their image; either that or they simply overwhelm them with force of personality. Brearley's triumph was of a different order. He gave a means of expression to a cabinet of talents far greater than his own. 

No batsman without a Test match hundred has been more revered by his men. I only saw one day's play of the 1981 Ashes series live, and it was the nadir: second Test at Lord's, Botham the captain making the second duck of a pair, bowled round his legs by Ray Bright trying to sweep. He walked back to the dressing room in a silence that can only be described as contemptuous. His despair was not hard to imagine. 

Bob Woolmer was dropped to make way for Brearley at Headingley. Of course, Brearley could never have done it without Botham. But then, manifestly, Botham was not doing it without Brearley either. 

Brearley's method with Beefy was merely to reassure him of his worth, let him know he was loved, and set him loose. This was important because the public had turned against Botham for the first time in his career. Pietersen has the same need within him, and on a greater scale too. He sees the value in passing it along. Harmison was the first to be enveloped in KP's cloud of love, but he won't be the last.

So the vision of KP and Brears sitting together on the flight to Mohali is a sweet one. You know they'll have been talking love as well as the joys of the in-out field. 

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