MS Dhoni best white-ball captain of this era: Michael Vaughan
- Dhoni retired from Test cricket in 2014 and later handed over white-ball captaincy reins to Virat Kohli
- India won the 2007 World T20 and the 2011 World Cup under Dhoni's captaincy
- After the World Cup earlier this year, Dhoni made himself unavailable for the tour of West Indies and the home series against South Africa
Ben Stokes and Steve Smith seem to have redeemed themselves…
Yes, two special cricketers that made big mistakes, mistakes I’m sure both regret. In life we must all respect the fact that mistakes can happen to young people. The lesson is about comebacks and fighting. What is done is done but you can learn from that and come back stronger. Both Smith and Stokes are adverts for that.
Stokes plays a massive role in this England dressing room…
Ben has shown he can hold his head up high, in terms of the way he has reacted and returned to the side. He works harder than anybody. He is a fantastic team player. In the dressing room he is very positive, driven. He wants to be that one person that makes the difference. That’s what high quality all-rounders do. They have that mentality of wanting it to be about them, and not in an egotistical sense.
Look at what Smith went through during his innings at Edgbaston. His first Test innings since the break was as good as you will ever see. It is because of the pressure he was under. They were booing when he got a 50, booing when he got a 100. Then a few weeks later, the Oval gave him a standing ovation because they realized they had witnessed greatness over the course of four Tests.
He is on a Bradmanesque run…
He is the best Test match player I’ve seen. I’ve seen all the greats of this era and the past. I think Steve Smith has something unique and different. When you think he started Test cricket in 2010-11 as a No.7 batsman who bowls leg-spin, it is again a lesson for everyone that if you work hard, dedicate your life to one subject -- his subject is batting -- you can do extraordinary things.
You recently wrote about the need for England to have separate Test and one-day coaches…
The white-ball game is now so far away from Tests that it is very difficult when you have 3-4 people doing everything. Some skill sets can cross over from white-ball cricket, but there is a lot of it you need to put in the bin when you are playing Tests. The three powerhouses -- Australia, England and India --are playing 24-7. If you are coaching one player to smack it out of the ground and weeks later asking him to play it late under his nose, it is not going to be easy. It might be an easier message to give if you have specific coaches.
What about split captaincy?
Split captaincy works, that is why I spoke about split coaches because I think it works. It is just (about) getting the right people. It is an easier and better way of doing things, unless you’ve got a superhero like Kohli or Williamson.
Your top international captains of this era?
Kane Williamson is outstanding. He has the gift to lead without having to say too much. He can manoeuvre his team in a sensible way and not a noisy way. Everyone realizes he is the leader, the power. Eoin Morgan was a revelation in 50-over cricket. MS Dhoni doesn’t do international captaincy anymore but in our era, Dhoni is the best white-ball captain I have seen…the way he manoeuvres from behind the stump, just reads play, thinks out of the box, handles the pressure card and is also great with the bat. In Tests, Virat Kohli is busy, energetic, a brilliant batsman, full of life. I like the way he captains.
A lot of captaincy does go beyond the pitch…
It goes beyond the actual tactical side of the pitch. You need to have a strong cricketing brain and a strong idea of how to manage people. It is also the way you portray yourself in the public, how you handle the media, the messages you send, the structure and goal that you set for the team. Good captains give their team a vision of what they want to achieve over the course of the next few months and years.
Does Test cricket need saving, in a way?
If you want Tests to be the pinnacle, which many of us think it should be, then it has to be all about the ball and the pitch. It is about making sure there is fair bit of balance between bat and ball. We don’t want to see 550 versus 550, that’s not going to bring back anybody into it. Tests have to be a grand spectacle. Playing Tests in England is great because there is always something for the bowlers, something in the pitches. That is why Tests are popular in England. The Dukes ball swings around a bit.
There has been talk of a standardized Test ball…
We can’t have just one ball because there are sponsorship deals and brands. Just make your balls better. Offer something to the bowler, because as you saw in the Ashes, if there is a contest between bat and ball, it really is a grand sporting event…very dramatic… and what Test cricket needs right now.