Captaining England

It would be invidious to compare Michael Vaughan with Gordon Brown or the Edgbaston Test with the Crewe and Nantwich by-election – but I can’t help noticing what an excellent metaphor cricket affords for real life.

The first few days at Lord’s went like GB’s honeymoon period. The opposition attack failed to penetrate. We built up a massive score, then skittled them out cheaply and made them follow on. This was the equivalent of GB’s first few weeks in office – all sunshine all the way, Tories nowhere. Then Gordon declined to bat (hold an election) and Michael postponed England’s second innings – and everything changed. Since then nothing has gone right for either man and the individual performance of each has been weak – neither has scored.

Vaughan has done what many hope Brown will do – fallen on his sword to make way for another man and ‘be himself again’. The problems created are similar: who will succeed? In the case of GB there are a number of options, none of whom appetise. In the case of Vaughan, some see an obvious successor in Kevin Pietersen.

Thirty years or so ago Michael Brearley gave up the captaincy and the powers that be had the brilliant idea of appointing our brilliant all-rounder Ian Botham. Disaster for both Ian and England, retrieved only part way through the 1981 Ashes series when Botham was replaced as captain by Brearley – and went on to win what is still called ‘Botham’s Ashes’. They repeated the error after Vaughan gave up through injury in 2006 by appointing Freddie Flintoff – again disaster for both. I suspect that KP will suffer likewise if appointed. There is an alternative in Andrew Strauss who led England successfully against Pakistan two years ago. It might also be worth considering Paul Collingwood after his gutsy 135 at Edgbaston – a ‘captain’s innings’ if ever I saw one.

And a replacement for GB? Bring back Blair? Or a Blair clone like Milliband? Certainly not! Let’s have an election and let the (s)electors choose. I’d go for Cameron myself – now isn’t that a surprise???

About pauljohnston

Elected as Conservative councillor in Surbiton Hill, Kingston upon Thames in 1998. Re-elected 2002 and 2006. Former parliamentary candidate in Lancashire and Birmingham. Ceased to be a Councillor (temporarily?) in 2010. Active among Residents' Associations in Surbiton Hill and among residents in social housing generally. Former teacher of History at St. Brendan's College Bristol and Head of History and Politics at the London Oratory School. Worked with Sutton Trust running summer schools for sixth formers at Oxford University from 1997-2000 aiming to improve uptake of places from pupils from state schools which sent very few applicants to Oxbridge.
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9 Responses to Captaining England

  1. Sadly…gutsy he may be, aesthetically pleasing he isn’t!

  2. pauljohnston says:

    Good to hear from you Martin and to read what you’ve been up to since last we met.
    In your comment, are you talking about Collingwood or Cameron – or both? The England captaincy seems to have resolved itself in the person of Strauss, though I still think he has something to learn about aggressive field placing especially to spinners like Swann and swingers like Anderson (who should never bowl without at least one slip in any class of cricket!)
    GB is still hanging on hoping against hope to stop a DC takeover. There are some questions too about DC’s team selection and field setting abilities. But, on the whole, I’m prepared to think him gutsy – even a little decorative – and, hopefully, willing to learn.
    All the very best to you and yours.

  3. Indeed. There weren’t a great deal of obvious captains, Cook is perhaps too young. He did well to unite a team and perhaps you would say he was a lucky captain at times. Much as I like Collingwood I think he is now on the downward trend (I am still free if needed ;P).

    The blog is brilliant by the way. So are you not teaching at the Oratory anymore? This is a sad day. I think you will always be synonymous with history for me.

    Im good thanks. Strangely I think my life took a few odd turns. After my first degree, I did a masters in environmental modelling and then a PhD at UCL in remote sensing, trying to understand the earths surface from space in short. I am now working as a climate scientist out in oxfordshire. Apart from the low pay things are great and I still have lots of time to play cricket (I get worse with every passing year!).

    I just wanted to extend a thanks for everything you did for me over the years. And wish you all the best.

    Though Back Boris? In the words of a famous teacher I once knew “Piffle, poppycock and balderdash”.


  4. pauljohnston says:

    The famous quote could also have contained ‘Bilge, eyewash and twaddle’! It’s good to have one’s teaching remembered with such accuracy!
    Ken had to go and, for all his faults, Boris is an improvement. Less of a dictator, for instance, and less of a spendthrift. But I’m not that keen on any of the institutions Blair has saddled us with, and you know me too well to think that’s a party political dislike. It isn’t; his constitutional tinkering has done irreparable damage to this country and it was undertaken with no thought beyond immediate political advantage. It’s the historian and constitutionalist in me that’s affronted.

    I stopped teaching at LOS eight years ago. Others have gone too: John McIntosh, Penny Franks, Alex Ressort to name but a few! The old order changeth. I go back there from time to time and used to help out with interviews for the First Form intake while this atrocious government still allowed them. Entering the premises I morphed so quickly back into my old self that it scared me. You know, seeing boy with tie slightly akimbo or shirt outside trousers I told him to do his tie up and tuck his shirt in without pausing to think twice about it – a conditioned reflex!……..And he did it too!

    Glad you’re still playing cricket – but look after your knees! I didn’t – which is why I now have a walking stick.

  5. Martin De Kauwe says:

    I prefer institutionalised – I get weird reactions in my mind when people walk down the “wrong” side of the corridor. That cannot be healthy!

    I’ll save my dissection of Boris for one of your blog entries ;p

  6. Richard Kotowicz says:

    Not sure how I stumbled upon this but am very glad I did. Things like Mr. Johnston saying ‘Bilge, eyewash and twaddle’ to Martin De Kauwe brings back many memories!

    I too would like to echo Martin’s sentiments and thank you for all the help you gave me while at the Oratory. You were the only history teacher I ever had there, and I’m still saddened by the poor grade I achieved in my History A Level as I felt I’d let you down after all those years. I did end up retaking it and vastly improving the grade, which led me to a History degree at the University of Sussex. Life at Sussex took a rather unexpected turn as I spent a year abroad at the University of Vermont, and met my future wife there. I returned to Sussex to finish up my degree, spent a few months earning some money before moving to Boston in 2006 to get a Masters in Accounting and an MBA at Northeastern University. I now live and work in Boston with my wife of 2 years, currently waiting to close on a house purchase and expecting our first child this November.

    Sadly I can’t comment on the cricket issues that you and Martin were discussing because I’m commenting quite a few months later, and cricket was never really my thing. Although I have strangely taken a liking to baseball, and the Boston Red Sox….please don’t judge me, they talk about nothing else over here!

    It also appears that you have your wish with Mr. Cameron as PM (albeit probably not on the terms you were fully hoping for I’m sure, especially considering the content on the Lib Dems in your blog). A Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition really doesn’t sound quite right. Interesting times lie ahead.

    All the best.


  7. pauljohnston says:

    Thank you for this. It seems you’ve done very well since leaving LOS and I’m very pleased you have. As it happens I have a soft spot for the Red Sox myself, having been inducted into the mysteries of baseball in Boston by a Red Sox fan (understatement!). So I know what RBI means and sometimes watch baseball on satellite TV here. You can also get it on Channel 5.
    I take nothing back that I have said about the Lib Dems, but DC was between a rock and a hard place and needs must! As it happens I lost my seat last week to a classic Lib Dem local campaign – but the motto is ‘Don’t get mad, get even’ – and that’s what I intend to do.
    Great to hear from you. My very best wishes to Mrs. Kotowicz. Have a great life!

  8. Martin De Kauwe says:

    Wow, Richard your life story sounds v.exciting, I hadn’t actually heard that in full! Brilliant.

    Mr. Johnston sorry to hear about your seat, usually I would argue the less torries the better, but in your case (and your case only) I shall make an exception. I hope you reclaim it next time round!

    Richard we must put Mr J forward for britian’s best teacher…

  9. pauljohnston says:

    Thanks Martin. I’m thinking about next time round. There’s quite some time to go. However I shall find something to do to keep me occupied!
    Thanks to you and Richard for the very kind words.

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