Michael Vaughan was to England what Saurav Ganguly was to India – a captain who changed the defeatist trend of the team to make it a champion outfit capable of challenging the opponents in any given condition. The work of moulding England began during the age of Nasser Hussain as captain but it really achieved a major fillip during the reign of Vaughan who helped England claim the Ashes back in 2005 from the then Aussies, a truly champion team for all ages. He also helped the team win its first series against South Africa and in 2004 won against the W est Indies on their turf after a long time – 30 years – but, without a doubt, the 2005 Ashes remains his best achievement as captain.
The hallmark of his captaincy was his languid demeanor that hid, rather carefully, a steely determination to win and etch a new history for the team at every point in its journey. He was in direct contrast to his predecessor Nasser Hussain whom players were weary of owing to his, at times, volatile temper. Perhaps Vaughan’s biggest asset as a captain was that he could remain unflustered even in the face of defeat. His brilliance as a captain is evident in the way the careers of the next generation of England stalwarts like Andrew Strauss, Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Flintoff, Steven Harmison and Simon Jones blossomed under him – Flintoff, in fact, went on to become world’s best allrounder in his captaincy. He also played a part in extracting the very best out of gritty performers like Ashley Giles and Matthew Hoggard.
The measure of Vaughan as a cricketer can be understood from the fact that he is also regarded as one of the finest batsmen in the English game. In 82 tests, he scored 5719 runs at an average of 41.44 which does not truly reflect his true abilities as a silken stroke-maker and a top performer – even though he may not like to admit it, Vaughan’s batting was affected by his captaincy responsibilities. The high water mark of his batting career was the 2002 summer against India and Sri Lanka where, apart from making 900 runs in 7 tests, he was supposedly asked for tips on playing Muttiah Muralitharan by none other than Rahul Dravid! In the 2002-03 Ashes in Australia, he scored more than 600 years, making him the first visiting batsman to achieve the feat in 32 years.
Cricket writers, especially from England, have often likened him to Michael Atherton but I would personally place him on the same category as David Gower who was also apparently a laid back cricketer with a graceful demeanor about his batting that has been matched by few. The England cricket team can thank him for instilling in it the confidence that has helped them scale the heights and become one of the top test teams of the present era.