RAJESH KUMAR - Cricket Statisticians
The Hollow Crown
The Hollow Crown - England cricket captains from 1945 to the present
by Mark Peel

Published by Pitch Publishing Ltd.
A2 Yeoman Gate, Yeoman Way,
Worthing, West Sussex BN13 3QZ

Hardback edition

Pages: 320
Price: Sterling Pounds 19.99
ISBN: 978 1 78531 663 0

Having written twelve books, the award-winning cricket writer Mark Peel charts the development of the England captaincy from 1945 to the present where power is shared between captain and coach. Peel examines the huge demands the England captaincy imposes on the occupant and why few leave office with their reputation enhanced.
The Hollow Crown contains individual portraits of the 43 England captains, exploring their background, philosophy, strengths, weaknesses and the legacy they left, with special attention given to the likes of Len Hutton, Peter May, Ray Illingworth, Mike Brearley, Mike Atherton, Nasser Hussain, Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss.
Len Hutton, according to the author, was England's first professional who led them in the Yorkshire tradition which valued grit and attrition over adventure and flair. "It wasn't pretty to watch, but his record of five unbeaten series and two Ashes triumphs speaks for itself. Not only was he one of England's finest captains, he was also one of its most influential ones, since his defensive approach was carried on by his successors, May and Cowdrey, right through to Illingworth and beyond. The amateur era was well and truly over in spirit, if not entirely in form."
While praising Mike Brearley, Peel commented: "He had an all-rounder of exceptional ability in Botham to win him games which might otherwise have been lost. Yet while Botham was good for Brearley, it is also true to say that, as 1981 showed, Brearley brought the best out of Botham and Willis, both of whom had lost their lustre over the previous year. His advice, encouragement and support allowed them to play their natural game and his composed optimism enabled the rest of the team to believe in miracles when they might have given up the ghost. According to Boycott, Brearley's reputation for man-management was no myth. He had no hesitation in rating him the best captain with whom he played. It was an opinion shared by the majority of his England teammates."
Brearley's success % of 58.06 is outstanding - 18 wins, four losses and nine drawn games out of 31 Tests. In a chapter, namely, The Age of Instability: 1980-89, Peel says Brearley's success looks all the more impressive when compared to the fate of his successors during the 1980s.
Nasser Hussain's four years in charge, according to Peel, makes him one of England's most pivotal captains. Inheriting the captaincy at a time when his form had reached rock bottom at the end of the 1990s, he and Duncan Fletcher, helped by the introduction of central contracts, instilled a new sense of pride and purpose in the team.
As regards Alastair Cook, the author believes that he will be remembered as the only man to have won in both India and South Africa, and one of only three men - Grace and Brearley being the other two - to have won two Ashes rubbers at home.
In his concluding chapter, Peel says with Root (39 Tests) already three years into his captaincy and keen to lead his country in Australia in 2021/22, it will be interesting to see if he breaks Cook's record of 59 Tests and sets a new model for the England captaincy.
Attractively laid-out and logically organised, the book is a superb production indeed.