Michael Vaughan: Time to Declare - My Autobiography
Author: Michael Vaughan
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Rating: 3 stars
By Martyn Corrin
04 Jan 2010
In 2005 I read Michael Vaughan's captaincy book Calling the Shots
and it was a decent read. However, it was written by Michael Vaughan, the centrally contracted England captain. As such, when I heard he would be releasing a full autobiography after retiring, then it's fair to say I was interested. My hope, and expectation, was that we would see less diplomacy, and now that he had no contractual obligations or team-mates he could tell us what he really thought.
So did this happen? Well, yes and no. The book gives you the tale of Vaughan the cricketer, with very few aspects of his personal life mentioned (although one amusing snippet was that when he first met his Northern Irish wife Nicola, aged 14, he and a friend nicknamed her 'Petrol Bomb'). He discusses about how he preferred football as a youngster before settling on cricket and there is a sense of modesty when he comes to the point where Yorkshire changed their eligibility rules to allow him to play for them.
County cricket enthusiasts may be disappointed but casual readers will be pleased that the early stages of the book are always building to Vaughan's international call-up, and there are few references to his playing the domestic game from there onwards.
The biggest disappointment for me when reading this book, though, was the lack of detailed insight for the majority of Vaughan's England career. It was understandable in his previous books, but in this instance it is difficult to understand why Vaughan would write an autobiography without revealing all.
One man who does not escape criticism throughout the book is Nasser Hussain. Vaughan is very apologetic everytime he criticises Hussain and is at pains to say he has great respect for him as a cricketer, a captain and a person but it is clear that Vaughan completely disagrees with the way Hussain captained the England team; it is not so much from a tactical point of view - though he does state that the Fletcher-Hussain axis was not positive enough - but a man-management one. He is reluctant to say too much but makes it obvious that plenty of the players did not particularly like playing under Hussain and that Vaughan found it all a little bit too much like a military operation at times.
Duncan Fletcher, though, gets rather the opposite treatment. Despite Vaughan's assertion that Fletcher was never keen enough to be positive (something he believes is down to Fletcher's southern African background) he is clearly very fond of Fletcher as a coach and enjoyed playing under him. Vaughan is highly critical of the Schofield Report, the inquest that took place following the 2006-07 Ashes series. He says that Fletcher was extremely hurt by it. Ultimately though, the impression you get throughout the book is a strong belief that captain and coach should have the most authority in the England team.
As well as being keen on Fletcher, there is also an overriding impression of Vaughan's happiest times being 2004 and 2005, for understandable reasons. He seems to connect a lot more with the players that were part of his Ashes-winning team, and when he returned to the team in 2007 you sense that he felt like an outsider of sorts. The names on the teamsheet were quite different, and the team he had built up into the second best in the world was no more. It is also clear that he did not enjoy the relationship with Peter Moores anywhere near as much as the one he had with Fletcher.
It is from his return to the side in 2007 that the book becomes most interesting. Whilst there is a reluctance to be too critical of anybody that was a part of the unbeaten year of 2004 and the Ashes triumph of the following year, he has no problem saying what he thought of the 'new' era. He did not connect with Moores and was also clearly disenfranchised with the likes of Monty Panesar, whom he is critical of, albeit again diplomatically ('Monty is a lovely bloke but...'). Vaughan began keeping a diary, most notably in the winter of 2007-08, and it is obvious that resigning from his position as captain is not a decision he took one Saturday afternoon in Birmingham.
He was particularly annoyed when he had to be the man who told Matthew Hoggard that he was dropped in New Zealand, despite the new, post-Schofield report, policy of a selector always being present on tour. What is interesting, though, is that Vaughan was 100% behind the decision to drop his Yorkshire team-mate. There have been a lot of theories that Hoggard must have upset somebody in order to be dropped, hopefully the words of Vaughan in this book will add further weight to the argument that Hoggard simply wasn't the bowler he once had been; Vaughan states that he felt he had lost his nip.
After giving up the captaincy, Vaughan goes on to briefly comment on the fiasco that was the Pietersen-Moores-Strauss affair at the beginning of 2009; he is at pains to make it clear that his non-selection was not an issue, as had been widely reported. He then adds his own thoughts on the 2009 Ashes, and does seem genuinely pleased for the way the series unfolded - he obviously would have loved to have been there, but accepts that, in retrospect it was never likely to happen.
This book is worth reading if you are a fan of Michael Vaughan or English cricket, but if you want to find out hard-hitting information about the likes of Flintoff, Harmison and Pietersen, then you will be disappointed. The book comes to life following the 2007 World Cup - I couldn't put it down once I got to that point - and the last couple of years therefore make it a good read overall.