Monday, 12 September 2011

The T20 Captaincy Question

So with the news that T20 captain Stuart Broad's going to be out for a few months with a sore shoulder, as will vice-captain Eoin Morgan (spookily also with a sore shoulder), England's selectors are going to have to appoint their fifth captain of the summer ahead of the fairly meaningless T20 internationals against the West Indies in a couple of weeks. While the games will come at the end of a tiring summer and will probably be played by heavily depleted / disinterested sides, the matches (and perhaps even the away T20 in India after the ODI series out there) will give someone the opportunity to step onto the first rung of England captaincy - the chance to impress all with their cricketing brains, and the ability to tell their grandchildren that they were England captain.

So who should take the job? There are a few candidates, but as with the appointment of Broad himself at the start of the summer, nobody really jumped off the page. So I'll start with the FEC himself, and the man who already leads England's 50 over outfit, Alastair Cook. Everyone knows that Cooky is just serving an apprenticeship before being anointed England test captain, and taking on a couple of T20 games will only help his development and is another step of progression for him personally. However, Cook has long been deemed unsuitable to play T20 cricket for England. If he hasn't been in England's T20 plans thus far, with the bigger picture of the World T20 on the horizon, the selectors are unlikely to want to pick someone just for some one-off matches, which could rule Cook out. However, he has spoken of his desire to get into England's T20 team, and given the unbelievable form he's shown recently (including a T20 style innings as he guided England home at the Rose Bowl v India), this may just be the opportunity for him to get back into the shortest format side, and grab yet another captaincy in his quest for total control over English cricket.

The "not being in the side" argument would also appear to rule out some of the other senior players in England's side, with both Ian Bell and Jimmy Anderson not actually being in the T20 team. While they would both be major contenders in either of the other formats, the fact that they aren't (like Cook) actually deemed suitable for T20s should see them excluded from the reckoning.

With England's T20 team looking more pre-school than university, actual senior players who are regularly playing in there are fairly thin on the ground. In fact, only Graeme Swann and Kevin Pietersen could be deemed experienced enough to lead an England side, and both have their obvious fallbacks. Swann, for all of his laddish brilliance probably wouldn't be the best choice as he'd either do something inappropriate and unbecoming of an England captain, or by not being "one of the lads" the dressing room would miss out on Swanny's antics and the boost they give. And KP would come with the baggage of being KP, and everything that brings and has brought in the past. Besides, he may not want another crack at it after last time. However, despite how it all ended, Pietersen was actually not a tactically bad captain, and for only a one-off could consider having another go. And given that it is just for a couple of days, the powers that be may decide that Swann's influence wouldn't be missed that much, or even that even he couldn't create THAT much carnage in two days.

Another option would be giving it to an exciting youngster in order to help them progress, and given the relatively low pressure situation that it will be, that may not be the worst idea in the world. Current Lions captain James Taylor could be a shout, but after just one international cap, handing him the captaincy might be a touch premature.

However you look at it, the two games against the West Indies are turning out to be a bit of a nightmare. The players don't want to be playing them, and the selectors don't want to be forced into naming an interim T20 captain. However, a captain must be named, and while it may not mean much in the grand scheme of things, someone will be able to proudly boast that for two wet September days at The Oval, they were England captain.