A few years ago I was invited to Lords by the treasurer of Middlesex for a game by the touring West Indies. Mike Brearley was there too, in sandals, and after lunch I stood next to him on the balcony. If your definition of a good analyst is adding value then Mike Brearley was in a class of his own as he analysed ball by ball. I can still recall him saying that a new batsman who was out of form would be nervous but the field was not aggressive enough. It was that understanding not just of his own teammates but the opposition that made him one of the great post-War captains. Yesterday he was interviewed by another who can claim that accolade and his first name Michael -Vaughan – and it made for a fascinating article in the Telegraph and later a radio programme .
The Australian method of international captaincy is to select the team first and then out of it the skipper. This has worked out less well with England where our best players – Botham, Flintoff and Cook – have found their form impaired by the demands of captaincy. Indeed Brearley had to take over from a struggling Botham mid-series in 1981 and revived England for an improbable victory in Edgbaston . That Test was one of those events that if you were not there you recall where you were. I was with some parental friends in Ham and managed to persuade them to switch on the telly. We were soon absorbed as Willis came hurtling in for his 8 wickets. Brearley revealed last night that it was by no means certain Willis would be selected. Brearley would always find batting a strain at this level but his captaincy was so integral to the team’s success that I cannot remember this being questioned. The treasurer of Middlesex, a bank manager, believed that Brearley ‘s book The Art of Captaincy should be required reading for all bank managers.
He did not just captain England to success but Middlesex too. Indeed with yet another Mike – Gatting- they brought the county 20 years of success. It’s perhaps a surprise that post-career he was not more involved as analyst or administrator. The answer lies in his own successful career as psychoanalyst. Like Ed Smith he was an Oxbridge double first and seriously cerebral. Our paths did cross again when 6 years ago he gave the Worrell lecture at the Metropolitan University where Clem Sicharian, a good friend, had set up a Caribbean cricketing course and attracted many of the world’s leading cricketing lights to his annual Worrell lecture. My memory of Brearley was, after the lecture, standing at the bus stop in Holloway Road reading a book. Not for him insistence on a chauffeur driven limo.