What are the broad segments you can divide captaincy into?
There are so many different qualities involved. You might divide them for convenience’s sake into two – technical aspects and man-management.
Technically, you need to know the game completely. You need to have a great pleasure and interest in tactics. You need to be both inventive and cautious, and move between attack and defence without too much of a radical shift.
With respect to man-management, you need to get the whole group playing as a team, you need to get the best out of individuals. You can’t do it with everyone but you can expect some to perform better than they would otherwise.
The late journalist John Thicknesse described you as intuitive, resourceful, sympathetic and clear-thinking. Could you elaborate on those qualities?
Although you can use logic, you also have to go by hunches. A person who can trust his hunch is one who knows his game thoroughly.
Nobody knows what’s going to happen next. You can change the bowling and the new bowler may bowl leg stump half-volleys, go for 15 runs, and you lose control of the game. Or he may bowl just outside off, you get two wickets, and you’ve won the game. You need to work by hunches, but intelligent hunches.
It means having a range of options in your mind which you can turn to in times of need. Like England saw India get 664 in this match at The Oval. And they only had three bowlers for most of the day. That’s when you’ve got to eke out the most out of your resources, have an alternate plan, propose something different. You’ve got to keep trying and you’ve got to keep it going. Sometimes all you’ve got is keeping it going. Bowlers are tired, batsmen are on top, all you can do is think, “It could be even worse, it could be slightly better.”
Some of the great players haven’t been great captains because they haven’t been able to understand the struggle. You have to have an empathy for other players, and at the same time you have to say, “If this is the way you’re going to go, you won’t succeed.” You’ve got to be tough, sometimes hard. The example that comes to mind is Geoffrey Boycott, especially in Australia in 1978-79, when he wasn’t in very good form – he’d just been sacked from Yorkshire captaincy, his mother had just died. A combination of things made a great player look like ordinary. I didn’t do that much but it was Doug Insole, the manager, who took hours of time talking to Geoffrey, sympathising with him – telling him that you can’t really speak to umpires like that etc. Botham also helped him. Geoffrey, uncharacteristically kept getting hit off the short-pitched ball, and Botham said, “You’re getting very rigid on the crease, standing stump to stump. You’re not moving like a boxer. And he tried to get him a bit light on his feet.” That was an example of sympathy.