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Monday, 31 December, 2001, 00:15 GMT
Hussain: The man who revived England
Hussain with his team in India
Hussain plays a pivotal role in a young England side
BBC Sport Online's Martin Gough profiles Nasser Hussain, who has been awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours.

The OBE is a reward traditionally presented to an England captain after he has spent a decent time in the job.

Both of the last two incumbents - Alec Stewart and Michael Atherton - have the same letters after their names.

But for Nasser Hussain, the honour comes at an especially fitting time - because he has returned from India hailed as one of the finest England captains ever.

He may have begun his captaincy tenure by losing to New Zealand and South Africa, and this year suffered defeats by Australia and India - but Hussain has always emerged with the highest credit.

  Hussain's Test career
Debut v West Indies, 1990
Caps 66
Highest score 207 v Australia, 1997
Runs 3,726
100s Nine
50s 19
Average 35.15
Appointed captain June 1999
Series wins Zimbabwe, West Indies, Pakistan and Sri Lanka 2000-01
He has been praised for his assured man-management skills and his tactical nous, which have helped revive the national team after a torrid period in the 1990s.

Nowhere has the contrast between Hussain and his predecessors been starker than this winter in India, the land of his birth.

The last trip there in 1992/93 saw an England side with a siege mentality whinge their way around the country, and return on the wrong end of a 3-0 Test whitewash.

They went out with high hopes, and returned ridiculed after failing to adapt to conditions on and off the field of play.

Young side

There were no such hopes this time around, as the side was slowly shorn of its experienced players.

Darren Gough and Alec Stewart ruled themselves out early, Andrew Caddick and Robert Croft were put off by security worries and Graham Thorpe went home after the first Test because of marital trouble.

Hussain and Duncan Fletcher
Fletcher has provided quiet authority and analysis
With two caps to his name, Matthew Hoggard was the most experienced strike bowler in the team, while an injury to Ashley Giles left immense pressure on the shoulders of the uncapped Richard Dawson.

But Hussain built up such a level of trust with his players that several newcomers filled the shoes of veterans with barely a noticeable difference.

The siege mentality remained to some degree, but this time it was used as a force for good, as the captain successfully bonded his squad together in the face of adversity.

Articulate and thoughtful while dealing with an adoring Indian public and media, Hussain was always the pivotal figure on the field.

'Too intense'

And in a fiery series, which saw an on-field spat with Indian ace Sachin Tendulkar, he proved once and for all that he has been able to channel his aggression into becoming a forceful international captain.

Earlier in his career he was known as a hot head, who tended to dwell on his own personal success or failure - and he was not the universal choice as Stewart's successor.

Hussain in action for England against Holland in 1993
Hussain had a stop-start early England career
But he has made a mockery of those sceptics who believed his temperament was too intense for leadership.

"When I was first interviewed for the job I said that you behave one way as a player because you focus on your own game, and that is your job," Hussain said prior to his departure for India.

"It's not up to you to worry about what we're going to do if we win the toss or what the side's going to be.

"You have to give people credit that when they are captain they are going to behave differently."

Guiding hand

His record speaks for itself, with England losing just nine of 27 Tests he has captained since his appointment following the debacle of the 1999 World Cup.

Hussain has also overcome a loss of batting form caused, in part, by the pressures of the captaincy when he went 21 Tests without a century before breaking that sequence by scoring 109 against Sri Lanka in Kandy last winter.

Hussain out
Hussain has had to endure poor batting form
Of course, Zimbabwean Duncan Fletcher, who took on the coaching reins in September 1999 after Hussain's first series at the helm, has also had a massive impact on the side.

Fletcher provides the quiet authority and analysis to Hussain's more passionate and emotional rhetoric, both inside and outside the dressing room.

And it was significant that when the captain's finger injuries split the duo up for much last summer, the team lost to Pakistan at Old Trafford and were then beaten soundly 4-1 by Australia in the Ashes series.

There is one man that the England side look to for guidance, encouragement and total support - and there is one man who will always provide it.

Although, if Hussain himself is to be believed, his team-mates should make the most of his leadership while they can - because he plans to step down after the 2003 World Cup.

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16 Dec 01 | England
27 Dec 01 | England
Links to more New Year Honours stories are at the foot of the page.


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