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Roebuck’s the only man who can lead England

by Ray Illingworth

There’s only one person in the country capable of leading England against the West Indies this winter… and that’s Peter Roebuck.

The Somerset opener is the player to replace David Gower. He alone has the ability to turn back the clock and help re-establish English cricket among the world’s best.

I’m not saying that Roebuck will meet that tall order in the Caribbean because England have been at rock bottom for so long and recovery will take time.

But he has a fierce pride in his country, an absolute hatred of the humiliation heaped on his fellow pros during the Ashes series. And, what’s more, he believe he has a plan that could actually beat the West Indies.

That might sound foolhardy from any other captain. But not one as deep-thinking as Roebuck.

He is a student of the sport and suggests that a proven way of beating the Windies is to discourage them with courageous and committed, if unspectacular, batting… then nick a winning lead late in the series.

It almost worked for the Pakistanis last year when they held Viv Richards’ men to a 1-1 draw. That was the first time since 1974 that the Windies had failed to win a Test series.

Roebuck’s undoubted credentials as a thinking captain can do nothing but good for the youngsters who must be taken on the tour and could spark the regeneration of our game.

Gower should never have been in charge for six Tests against the Australians. As a tactician he just wasn’t up to stopping the slide once it had started at Headingley.

Time and again Gower let what little advantage England gained against Allan Border’s Aussies slip from his grasp with some awful decisions in the field.

One thing is for sure, Roebuck won’t miss much in that department. I’ve already spoken to him and his ideas are sound.

More than once this summer, Gower was exposed under pressure. He walked out of some Press conferences and didn’t turn up for others.

I know that Roebuck has the ability to withstand the pressure that comes with this job. He gives straightforward answers and won’t duck anything.

If people want to get technical with him he will stand up and argue his case persuasively.

Roebuck has been in the game a long time and can motivate young players.

His first taste as captain of his country ended in a shock when England were beaten by Holland in Amsterdam.

Look how he bounced back, though. There was no messing about. He let everyone know exactly what he thought and they won their next game.

Now his motivating powers should be put to further use. He’s played against the quicks and can tell the younger players how to deal with them.

I’m a bit brassed off with people saying kids should not be thrown in at the deep end against the West Indies. The alternative is to take the old guard, a batting line-up that has failed miserably on the last two occasions.

The young players are busting to go for the honour of playing for their country.

Originally published in the Daily Express, September 1989