The Electronic Telegraph carries daily news and opinion from the UK and around the world.

Having to make a name for myself - again

By Michael Atherton

5 April 1998

LIFE after captaincy. I suppose it finally struck home when I picked up a copy of the Barbados Nation and found myself described as the former England captain for the first time. Future England Captain to Former England Captain in 4.5 short years. Did I say short?

Everyone has to adapt. What do people call you when they have been used to calling you 'skip' or 'captain' during the last four years. The locals in the Caribbean have decided not to bother even addressing the question. They are still calling after me ``Alright Cappy?''

From this you can deduce one of several things. Either the Bajans are blissfully unaware of the recent upheaval in the England squad (given the local knowledge of cricket that is very unlikely), that they never knew my real name in the first place (again, I hope, unlikely) or given my recent form and the stirring way the one-day side are performing, they darn well wish I was still 'cappy' (very likely).

Our resourceful press officer, Brian Murgatroyd, has initally struggled with this change of nomenclature. For at least five days afterwards he called me 'captain', which in turn was followed by 'former captain' along with profuse apologies, much blushing and an aversion to eye contact.

He has finally settled, sensibly I suppose, for Michael. He is, though, unaware of the fact that every Michael in the world is only ever called Michael by his mother. To the rest of the party I have simply reverted to 'Ath' or 'Athers' - which I much prefer anyway.

I suppose there has been the odd perk that I have had to do without along the way. The captain's car, a luxurious, turbo-charged, leather-seated, CD-player-fitted Rover was obviously mine during the Test series but was seen during the one-dayers with some short, hairy bloke behind the wheel.

The captain's fee disappears - but that was never enough to motivate you to do the job anyway. There are other little protocols to observe - remember not to sign the autograph bats at the top and find a niche somewhere close to the oil hole. Oh, and when there is a team photo don't blunder into the middle chair in the front row.

The biggest perk to disappear? Obvious isn't it? Even in the biggest run-drought of all time the captain can still select himself.

And now recently I have found myself out of the team and with that comes the long-forgotten duties of 12th man: hitting catches in the morning, giving the batsmen throw-downs, taking a hit for the bowlers, drinks waiter on the hour, putting wet thigh pads out to dry and pampering Robert Croft (I think he is getting his revenge). I mean, please, the guys not playing get no recognition!

In the meantime I have to do my best for the new captain, who has made an impressive start to the job, and that means being part of the team - which is what I expected of everyone else when I was captain. Carrying the drinks can be a blow to the ego and it is not something that I intend getting used to, but, as I spent four years trying to instill team ethics, I'm not about to ignore them now I'm just a player.

It is, of course, disappointing not to be playing. If I'm honest I didn't really expect to, as it was always likely that the selectors would stick with those who did so well in Sharjah. Naturally I'll back my batting credentials against anybody and if given a chance you'd have to be determined to take it.

The cricket correspondent of the Mail on Sunday suggested my recent demeanour was of a man who had just been told the funniest joke of his life. How he knows this, I'm not sure, but the implication is that I was having a miserable time before.

Of course this is nonsense. I wasn't miserable, but unfortunately in life when you're given a reputation then it's difficult to lose it, no matter how unfair. As Mark Twain said: ``Give a man a reputation as an early riser and he can sleep 'till noon.''

Let's just say that the post-captaincy period has had some small advantages. I asked David Lloyd the other day whether he fancied joining me for a round of golf at the Royal Westmoreland in Barbados. He looked ruefully and said: ``No, I've got a referee's meeting, managerial meeting and selection meeting.'' I just smiled apologetically and wandered off to play an unprofitable seven-ball skins.

And anyway, who the hell needs the hassle of seeing Philo Wallace stride to the crease, armed with a cannon, on a flat pitch, with the first 15-over fielding restrictions and watching all your best-laid plans go to waste in the first five overs?

Ian Chappell said to me once that resigning would be the easiest captaincy decision I'd have to make. In a sense it was. I have had no regrets. I did the job my way (which didn't mean not listening) and so thankfully there can never be any regrets. My first week as FEC (Former England Captain) has been interesting as I could observe players' reactions to me, which haven't changed much, and that has been pleasing.

There was a slight embarrassment on my part at not getting into the team for the first one-day international in Bridgetown but that feeling has been replaced by a determination to get back into the side and the only way to do that is by getting a bucket- full of runs at the start of the County Championship season with Lancashire.

And that will be my first ambition after, of course, I finish enjoying myself in the Caribbean with some bonefishing in Tobago.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at
Contributed by CricInfo Management

Date-stamped : 05 Apr1998 - 12:25