Mike Brearley – MOST OVERRATED CAPTAIN EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There are lot of myths in a lot of sports, cricket is no exception. SRT haters always bring up the fact he is selfish. Takes just 20-30 balls to go from 0 to 90 but 200 balls to go from 90 to 100 (not true!!). SRT is horrible when chasing (average > 42) and so on. Myths are real useful especially among friends during mokkai sessions where guys spend hours and hours debating whether their favourite batsman should have not played the shot which got him out. These myths also give us a valuable lesson in life – rationalization and procrastination (Gracias Señor Calvin).

Like I said myths are useful but some of them really pisses us off. A friend of mine, a real SRT fanatic, became mad with people claiming SRT slows down after he reaches 90. He spent days going through cricinfo (espncricinfo these days) ball by ball commentary and found that SRT took a minimum of 6 balls and a maximum of 13 balls to go from 90 to 100. I remember he told me he checked for about 15 of his 100s.

One myth that pisses me off is Mike Brearley’s brilliant captaincy. I firmly believe his captaincy legend is built on Botham’s Ashes. He played 39 matches for England and captained them in 31 matches. His captaincy record reads:

P         W         L         D

31        18       4          9

Now those are some super numbers but as usual numbers lie. We will look at them step by step. These 31 matches are over 9 series which includes India’s one-off golden jubilee test in 1980. In terms of series won his captaincy is:

P         W         L         D

9         7          1         1

Impressive, innit? What about series records home and away?

Home:

P         W         L         D

5         5          0         0

Away:

P         W         L         D

4         2          1         1

That is understandable. You expect good teams to do exceptionally well at home and do well away which is what Brearley’s teams have done.

The series breakdown is as follows:

Australia – P4 W3 L1

Pakistan – P2 W1 D1

India – P2 W2 (includes one-off 1980 Bombay BCCI jubilee test)

New Zealand – P1 W1

Matches won/loss/drawn summary is:

Australia – P18 W11 L5 D3

Pakistan – P5 W2 L0 D3

India – P5 W2 L0 D3

New Zealand – P3 W3 L0 D0

Beating “The great travellers” NZ & India does not require any special captaincy. Marimuthu of Somasundaram ground can captain England to victory at home against these juggernauts.  Beating Pakistan at home, that too late 70s/early 80s Pakistan, and drawing a series away is as impressive a feat as any but I seriously doubt if it adds to the “legend” of Brearley.

I believe the legend of Brearley, as with any Englishman, is built on the Ashes. For example, Dennis Amiss was a very good batsman. He averaged 70 against WI and 56 against Pakistan. He made two of the greatest innings against WI. Batting nearly 10 hours to make 262* save the Jamaica Test in 1974 and a superb 203 against Whispering Death at the Oval in 1976. He is hardly considered a great English batsman because he averaged only 15 against Australia.

Likewise, Brearley is great purely because of the Ashes. He captained against Australia in 4 series out of which 3 were considered the Ashes. A fourth series was played after the end of the Packer rebellion. This is not included in the Ashes canon. Unsurprisingly (in my opinion), this non-Ashes against a full strength Australian side, the English were drubbed 3-0 in a 3-test series.

Out of the remaining 3 series, 2 were played in England and 1 in Australia. The series in Australia was famous because of the Packer rebellion. None of the Chappells, Lillee, Marsh et al played. A weakened Australia were decimated by a full strength England side. Final result Australia 1 England 5! Verily I call upon Marimuthu to captain this side and dare anyone to predict a result any different from what happened.

The legend of Brearley is ultimately bookended by 2 Ashes wins, both at home. The 1977 Ashes was one helluva win. Even though Lillee missed it through injury, the Australian attack still had Thomson, Walker & Pascoe. A handy attack. England won 3-0 in a 5 test series. This was the series where Boycott returned after his self-imposed exile and scored his 100th first-class hundred in his home Headingley. He became the first player to do that in a test match. His last series as captain is the series where I believe the legend of Brearley really caught the imagination: Botham’s Ashes.

This was the Ashes where Ian Terrance Botham became as popular as a football player in England. He was actually the captain at the beginning of the 6 test series. England lost the 1st test and drew the 2nd. Botham resigned from captaincy only to be told by Sir Alec Bedser that he would have been fired from captaincy anyway. Brearley was brought in as a replacement. Free from the shackles of captaincy, Botham went into beast mode from then on.

The Ashes turned on its head. First was the 149* at Headingley when England won after following on. Then he hustled and bustled at Edgbaston destroying Australia with a spell of 5 for 1. Chasing 151, from 105/4 Australia crumbled to lose by 29 runs. In the fifth test at Old Trafford, Botham showed his destructive ability with bat hooking and pulling, a bowler no less than Dennis !#@$ing Lillee, to score 118 from 102 balls (remember this was a test match), after England were struggling at 104/5. Ultimately, England won by a comfortably 103 runs. The 6th test was drawn and England had retained the Ashes with a 3-1 win.

I wonder what was the captain’s thought process during those 3 tests. Maybe he was thinking, “Hmmm my best player is on fire. Should I save him up for later or should I just let it ride?” I mean what is this? What sort of captaincy is this? Once again would Marimuthu from Somasundaram ground have done anything different? Hell you could have asked an American and he would have said, “I need a wicket, Ian get ready!”. So what was so different that Brearley did? The guy riding the coattails of Botham & Willis had the gall to publish a book “The Art of Captaincy” when all he did was zilch/nada/nothing.

Now nearly 30 years later, he is still a legendary captain. I agree, he is a legendarily overrated captain.

All the numbers are from the fantastically brilliant Statsguru of Cricinfo. If it wasn’t for Travis Bavesi, a lot of my student days would have been spent doing useful work! So thank God for Bavesi!

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3 thoughts on “Mike Brearley – MOST OVERRATED CAPTAIN EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  1. You are factually correct. Unfortunately, that is all there is to your article. I came across your article while exploring answers the very same question.

    My point I wish to put across is, not whether you are sound in your opinion but the art of captaincy has far more depth than statistics and situations. Let us keep Mike Brearley as a case in point. I am sharing a link to a beautifully written objective article on this question. (http://www.cricketweb.net/mike-brearley-englands-greatest-captain/). Again, Mike Brearley is an example not the moot point.

    In exploring leadership we can surmise that leadership is experienced it never can be quantified. Decisions are our half chances.

    The one point you have missed out on your analysis is, though he had a quite impressive county record, why was he praised for his captaincy at that level, including a first class tour to Pakistan. He scored 132 but his captaincy was praised. Forget the Ashes, why was he alone asked to come back to captain England? They had Boycott, though he had a forgettable New Zealand series as captain. They had Willis who followed up as captain after Brearley. Brearley was 38 at that time.

    What about Brearley can help us inculcate an attitude we aspire to have? Or is he just an illusion? Statistics can never answer that question.

    1. First of all sorry for the late reply. This is just the 3rd comment I’ve received on my blog so pardon me for not really caring to check ;-).

      Next I don’t know why his county/state level captaincy should factor in at all. Ian Chappell swears by Les Favell as a fine captain but he hardly played for Australia let alone captain them. Also, MSD never captained any team before captaining India if I remember correctly. Though he was fine as a limited overs captain we cannot say he was incompetent at test level. Just not a great captain that’s all. This just opens a can of worms that makes things unnecessarily hazy.

      Selectors can sometimes be very emotional people. Going by your name I can assume you are Indian or at the very least familiar with Indian cricket. Remember when SRT resigned for the 1st time after the SA away tour? Whom did the selectors go to? Azhar. Why? I dunno. My gut feeling is that he was a known quantity. Same thing with Brearley mefinks.

      Lastly, I am factually right so why is Brearley a great captain? ;-).

      My personal opinion is that there are no great captains. There are only great teams and if you put a gun to my head, I’d chose Tubby to be the best captain I’ve seen in my lifetime (late 80s to present).

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