Nasser Hussain, my first England captain, might not have been everyone’s cup of tea, being an intense and fiery character, but he was brilliant for me.
Not everyone was fond of his leadership, but as a 20-year-old plucked from obscurity to take a place on a tour of Australia, he was exactly what I needed. I always felt he wanted to help me, and, crucially, backed my ability. After all, he was the England captain who gave me my first chance.
From the outset, it felt like Nasser was pushing me towards the one-day team when I was called in from academy duty in December 2002. He was always the one who talked to me, offered advice, and left me in no doubt he rated me, whereas I was never sure that anyone else felt that way at the time.
He found the time for me, which, as a young lad coming in, I really appreciated. By his own admission, he could be confrontational or irritable, and some of the other lads didn’t always enjoy being around him because he was also hard-nosed, bordering on aggressive at times.
Driven: Nasser Hussain (right) was like a friendly sergeant major
The unmistakable thing about Nasser was his will to win and how driven he was to make his England team the best they could be. He always sought perfection. In one of my early appearances, a one-day game in Perth, with Sri Lanka needing around 100 runs to win with just two wickets intact, while the rest of the team gathered in a huddle for a drinks break, he maintained his position at mid-off. He had arms folded, chuntering to himself, unhappy that someone had dropped a catch. It was not good enough to win: he wanted to win properly. Perhaps I saw some of me in him – I have always believed you should do your absolute best.
An incident of note came at the 2003 World Cup when, in my best international display to date, I had figures of 4-23 from 9.4 overs against Pakistan in Cape Town. Nasser said: ‘Whatever you do from this ball, don’t go for four. It’ll ruin your figures.’
Cue a rank ball down the leg side that went to the fence, and screams of ‘Oh Christ!’ from somewhere. Abdul Razzaq took me for two more from my final delivery, so Nasser’s warning had gone unheeded.
Others might have been completely narked by that kind of treatment, but to me he was like a friendly sergeant major. I owed him a lot for always backing me.
He also sought to take some of the pressure off by setting my field on my Test debut against Zimbabwe at Lord’s in May 2003. Normal practice is for an opening bowler to discuss field setting with his captain, but it was probably due to my tender years that he set mine and neglected to post a fine leg.
Three times I was clipped to leg for four by Dion Ebrahim in one over, making a pig’s ear of my early figures. Nasser could not have been more apologetic. ‘Sorry, that was all my fault,’ he said. ‘You concentrate on getting into a rhythm.’ It was impossible not to feel how much Nasser wanted you to do well, and because of that you wanted to reciprocate.
Our relationship was good on and off the field. The same could be said of my relationship with Michael Vaughan, captain during my early England years, since his retirement. Unfortunately, despite our cordiality now, I didn’t enjoy Vaughan as a captain.
As a young fast bowler, you need to know that your captain has his arm around your shoulder, if not physically, then metaphorically. Unfortunately, that is not something I ever felt playing under Vaughan. I actually felt alone and isolated when I most needed support.
Lost leader: Anderson believes he did not get enough help from his friend Michael Vaughan
Prime example of that was my recall for the Fourth Test against South Africa at the Wanderers in 2005. I had spent the first three Tests on tour out of favour. My tour was one big net, and because I had been so far removed from selection, I wasn’t even thinking about playing.
When preferred to Simon Jones, I was underprepared. It was five months since my last first-class action. I didn’t bowl very well. Although I started OK as first change, it wasn’t long before I began dragging the ball down short and wide. I got clattered everywhere and was soon shot of confidence.
Vaughan asked: ‘What’s up, mate? Radar gone?’
‘Yeah, I think it has,’ I said, desperate for some backing. All I received was a pat between the shoulder blades and an instruction to ‘keep going’.
A good captain should know how to talk to his team as individuals. I don’t think Vaughan ever had that in him, a major reason I’ve not held him in as high regard as others have. He was not as good a captain as others made out. He was captain of a truly great team in 2005.
Good captains get players to perform above themselves by putting them at ease. Although a lot has been made of Vaughan’s laconic style, I never felt comfortable playing under him. I never felt he rated me. His language with me was seldom positive and I didn’t like that.
Even during times of sustained personal success, I still didn’t take to him as a captain. All I really wanted was for him to believe in me and my ability.
Anderson on his England skippers
Nasser Hussain- Test record as captain: W17 L15 D13
We were different characters, with different backgrounds and from different eras, but I always understood Nasser and I even got his sense of humour — most of the time at least.
The best: Anderson with Andrew Strauss
Michael Vaughan - Test record as captain: W26 L11 D14
Although a lot has been made of Vaughan’s laconic style, I never felt comfortable playing under him. I never felt he rated me and his language with me was seldom positive.
Andrew Flintoff - Test record as captain: W2 L7 D2
Fred was a good mate but, in my opinion, it was an emotional decision to appoint him. The logical choice would have been Andrew Strauss, who stood out in that team. Flintoff was very passionate but as an England captain you need more than that. You need to be tactically astute and switched on.
Kevin Pietersen - Test record as captain: W1 L1 D1
Appointing Pietersen united the England captaincy across all formats once more, which made sense. Everyone is always excited by a change in captaincy, and it is natural to want to help a new guy out. Little did we know what was to follow.
Andrew Strauss - Test record as captain: W24 L9 D14
He is one of the main reasons we have been so successful in the last couple of years. His man-management is one of his great strengths. He knows I am a bit grumpy and he deals with everyone differently. He knows that, while some need a dressing down, others need only a quiet word.