Just what are the ECB thinking? No, scratch that, we’ve some idea what they’re thinking.
According to Aggers on last night’s news, the brass were determined to go back to a unified captaincy, and Pietersen is one of the few players guaranteed a slot in both sides. Well, if we’re using a process of elimination, why not make James Anderson the captain? And that really just flags up the weakness of the team.
A slightly more plausible idea is that you need an inspirational player who’ll lead from the front. Okay, we all know what a talented batsman KP is. But it isn’t as if England haven’t been down the road of the superhero captain before. Some of us recall Botham’s captaincy, a catalogue of disasters so profound they had to bring Brearley out of retirement. More recently, you had the Fred captaincy, where the team’s other talismanic player was supposed to be the magical ingredient. Granted that Fred does have a certain Boy’s Own quality, did that work out on the last Ashes tour? No it did not. Now, you might object that Fred was pissed most of the time, but even now that he’s off the sauce there’s still a question mark over his judgement.
My personal view of Pietersen is that his main task is to be more of a consistent and disciplined team player and less of a show pony. Put that together with his almost total lack of captaincy experience… Well, it’s just possible that this will prove to be a brilliant piece of lateral thinking. The evidence will be apparent soon enough.
For my part, I’d have been tempted to throw the captaincy to Strauss. Or there was the possibility of bringing Rob Key back as a straight replacement for Vaughan. The fat boy didn’t really convince much when he was playing for England, but since being dropped he’s been filling his boots in the county game, as well as proving a decent captain. If you reckon captaincy to be a specialist skill in itself, and in this day and age you can’t get away with a captain with Brearley’s average (at least not when carrying as much dead weight as this side), it’s not as if there’s a complete lack of options.
By the way, a remarkably conservative squad in the round. If Vaughan hadn’t dropped himself, one wonders whether any changes would have been made. You realise of course that this only puts off the day when the selectors have to take a machete to the entire team…