Surrey skipper Adam Hollioake has emerged as one of the front runners to succeed Nasser Hussain as England's one-day captain after having been out of international action for over three years, writes ALEX NAREY.
Despite recently being called into the squad as cover during the Victoria Bitter Series in Australia, Hollioake played no part in the preliminary matches or the two finals and was sent home prior to the World Cup in South Africa without adding to his tally of 35 one-day caps.
The hardworking all-rounder played some of the best cricket of his career last season as Surrey won the County Championship at a canter. However, a call up to the summer Test and limited overs squad never came despite the selectors constantly having to re-shuffle the pack due to injuries.
Now though, it appears that the Surrey captain's way of forward thinking and aggressive tactics are what is required to get England's one-day side back to winning ways. The fact that Hollioake is an all-rounder that leads by example will add freshness to a unit that has lacked stability and confidence in recent years as other one-day nations have left Duncan Fletcher's side standing still.
There are of course other candidates who are up for the job, most notably Yorkshire's Michael Vaughan and Somerset's Marcus Trescothick.
However, it would surely be more logical to allow Vaughan to carry on with his run-scoring duties at present whilst Trescothick has endured a nightmare summer where both form and the love of the game seem to have eluded him.
Neither man has had any real experience of captaincy at county level although both have captained their country on A tours in the past and at under-19 level. That is where Hollioake stands out with a clear advantage.
The Australian born all-rounder came to the fore in international cricket in the summer of 1997 when the touring Australians once again inflicted a heavy defeat on their English counterparts in the Ashes. However, in the three-match Texaco series, Hollioake played a major role in a rare whitewash for the English alongside his 19-year old brother Ben, and a romance with a new breed of young attacking players seemed to be on the cards.
Yet almost as soon as they had arrived on the Test arena, they had been discarded like so many other promising talents of the past. Then, despite Adam taking on the captain's role of the one-day unit a year later, the selectors soon had a change of heart as Alec Stewart was chosen to take on both the Test and limited overs leadership.
Adam played his last game for his adopted country back in England's dismal 1999 World Cup campaign, when they were knocked out by India. Whilst Ben continued to be part of the England set-up up until his tragic death in 2002, neither played any resemblance to the role it was imagined they would when they first arrived and recieved their England caps.
Even if the captaincy does not go to him, the time has to be now to introduce Hollioake back into the England fold.
Hussain became stale and lacked aggression during the World Cup, which was clear after a miserable winter that would have tested the very toughest of team leaders. A summer clear-out is needed, and new faces — with a touch of a few old ones coming back — must be on the agenda. The selectors therefore have a job on their hands in finding a man who can lift a side badly depleted after their winter hiding Down Under.
The question remains unanswered but Hollioake is a proven leader of a winning team, which is something that England have not been for quite some time now.
l Meanwhile, Hampshire are yet to announce whether or not Will Kendall will fulfil the captaincy role left open by the suspended Shane Warne for the 2003 season.
Kendall has only limited experience of captaincy at first-class level and while he was expected to skipper the Rose Bowl side prior to Warne's late arrival in the country, it may now be argued that he is not quite the right man for the job on a full-time basis.
If there is to be no Kendall, then where are Hampshire to go from here? They have just sorted out one mess that was left by Warne's stupidity, by obtaining the services of Shoaib Akhtar for the coming season but the captaincy role remains unsolved with not a great deal of candidates springing to mind.
Robin Smith has all the experience but with the greatest respect that would surely be deemed as a backward step even if it were just for one season while Warne sits out his punishment.
Smith struggled for form last term — along with so many other Hampshire players — and relinquishing the captaincy was one way of getting his game back in order. Besides, Hampshire need a fresh face to lead the side to promotion this year — although not necessarily in terms of youth but more in terms of leadership skills.
Shaun Udal is one man who would fit the bill. A Hampshire man through and through with bags of experience, Udal also knows the importance of this season from a fan's point of view and has always had the respect of players, including the opposing ones in what as been a fine career to date.
Speaking recently to the News, Udal commented on the captaincy role, saying: "Will doesn't have a great deal of experience as captain and I'm sure there would have been some sort of announcement after Shane's suspension if he was going to captain the side this summer."
Those words would certainly echo the view that Kendall and Hampshire may not go hand in hand when it comes to calling the toss, and despite the player having enough experience to take on the job, he is not the big name player who may be required to lift the side if the chips are ever down.
The decision seems set to be made when Paul Terry arrives at The Rose Bowl next Monday to take up his post of Team Manager and he is likely to have the final say on the matter.
Terry, who retired from first-class cricket in 1996, would know Udal well and despite crossing playing paths with Kendall towards the end of his Hampshire career it is unlikely that it would be the closest of realtionships between the pair.
Other possibilities include overseas player Simon Katich who knows the manager well from his time in Western Australia. However, his lack of knowledge of fellow players may work against him and for that reason, the post may be deemed too much in his first year. The priority for Hampshire as far as Katich is concerned should be run scoring.
John Crawley has experience of captaincy with Lancashire but would first of all hope to be representing his country in the summer Test series' against Zimbabwe and South Africa.