On a perishingly cold pre-season April day last year, Third Man wandered into the Headingley cricket ground and saw a Yorkshire XI playing a Yorkshire XI in their black pyjamas. Michael Vaughan was keen to get back into England action ahead of the Ashes and walked out to bat first wicket down. A selection of builder’s crane’s looked on in an otherwise empty stadium.
Bruce French from the Loughborough dugout was there but probably to keep tabs on Adil Rashid (who scored a breezy 70) rather than to report back on Vaughan’s form which could only be described as dire. The former England captain and wonderful batsman scratched half a dozen without middling a single shot and was then taken out by a 2nd teamer.
It was one of the saddest things Third Man has ever witnessed on a cricket field. No one could fail to see how badly he wanted to get back into the team to play the Australians later that summer. There was just no other reason to put himself through the ignominy. It was a cricketing version of They Shoot Horses Don’t They.
Third Man was relieved when a few weeks later he learnt that Vaughan had announced his retirement.
An idea of just how good a communicator Vaughan was in the dressing room or on the cricket field can be found in Matthew Hoggard’s autobiography, Welcome to My World (and a very strange world it is.)
Coming into the Test side and not sure what his role was, Hoggy’s has it explained to him by Vaughan.
“You know how in a company there are directors, sales people, engineers and officer workers and then there is always someone who sweeps the shop floor. Well, that’s your job Hoggy, you’re the one that sweeps the shop floor.”
Hoggy knew just what he meant and therefore just what was expected of him. If ever he tried to do anything ‘fancy’ with the ball he’d just look across to mid-on and Vaughan would smile back at him and mime the floor sweeping action.
That is as good a piece of captaincy or man management as one is likely to get on a sports field, an exemplar. And remember how he out bullied Mathew Hayden with that short extra on the drive.
Vaughan is already illustrating those communications skills on TMS. So it’s not surprising to see him communicating with paint – the only shock is that he’s throwing a paint-soaked ball at the canvas – had a rag arm didn’t he?