Michael Vaughan today ended his illustrious time as England captain with an emotional speech at the Loughborough academy, Vaughan who has captained the side for 5 years struggled to hold back tears as he thanked his family and the fans for their support during his time in charge of the team. To me as a lifetime cricket fan, though only of a young age, Michael Vaughan is my cricketing hero on the top of his game he is Englands best player and as a captain he is the best we've ever had not just because the statistics say so but also because of the man he is. During his 18 month teenier on the sidelines I went down to a county match at Headingley and met Vaughan when wandering around the ground and found him to be the most approachable person I personally have ever met, when asking for his autograph he doesn't just sign it and carry on he is willing to stop and answer a question or 2 or even to ask a couple.
Vaughans departure however gives the selectors many issues to resolve heading into the final test at the Oval on Thursday. The first or these and obviously the most important is who takes over from Vaughan not only to captain the test side but to captain in all forms of cricket with the resignation of Paul Collingwood from the one day captaincy also announced today, so who are the candidates for this role?
Andrew Strauss: Captained England successfully in 2006 against Pakistan winning the series 4-0 (since put down to 3-0 after The Oval fiasco) and averaged over 55 in the series aswel, one major factor though is he's not currently in the one day set up.
Andrew Flintoff: Captained England in the 5-0 whitewash in Australia but lead them to triumph in the one day series, mixed fortunes generally as stand in captain but would he really want the job so soon after injury probably best to let him concentrate on staying fit.
Kevin Pietersen: Probably the bookies favourite for the job and probably one of only 2 or 3 players who are cemented in both the Test and One Day set up, however he does have a tendency to be quite selfish at times and that occasionally lead to him playing wreckless shots and giving away his wicket also England need to make sure he's still their match winner when the ashes comes around next year and the captaincy could take that edge off his game.
Alistair Cook: My choice as the next England Captain. He's young' enthusiastic and I think the selectors have him down as a future captain, so why not give it him now with the right people around such as Vaughan (who i'm in no doubt will regain his place in this England side for the tour of India,) Collingwood, Strauss, Flintoff and Pietersen he could become a fantastic captain over the next few years and also for me Cook is the type of player who's game wouldn't be effected so much by the pressures of captaincy.
The next problem the selectors have is who takes Vaughans place in the side for the final test match, as I have said earlier on I am in no doubt that Vaughan will go back and get runs for Yorkshire and take up his place on the tour of India but the problem the selectors have for me is do they go with the 4 bowlers and bring in another batsman or do they go with 5 bowlers and bring back either Stuart Broad or Steve Harmison. Here's some who i feel are candidates to take Vaughans place:
Joe Denly: To me this is the lad who will take Vaughans place when he retires, he's having another good season with Kent and looks to be improving with every game in the Lions squad. Would mean a change in the opening partnerships with either Cook or Strauss dropping to number 3.
Rob Key: Another Kent batsman having a fantastic season and he has a test double hundred to his name, will slot in perfectly at number 3 and Ian Botham see's him as a captaincy candidate as well.
Owais Shah: A valuable member of the one day side with only 1 test under his belt and an average from that test of around 90, he can slot into the order at any point and you can get a couple of overs of off spin from him as well.
Stuart Broad: Dropped harshly from the Edgbaston Test, fantastic all round prospect for England probably most likely to come into the squad at The Oval.
Steve Harmison: Leading wicket taker in the country in all forms of the game is quickly proving himself to be a brilliant international bowler again and the fast, bouncy pitch at the oval will suit him perfectly. I also think there's a strong possibility of him coming into the team to give either the tired looking James Anderson or the still not fully fit looking Syan Sidebottom A break.
So, with all that in mind here my XI for The Oval test match:
Alistair Cook (Captain)
Tim Ambrose (last chance to prove himself!)
James Anderson/ Ryan Sidebottom