O Captain, My Captain!

Article excerpt

I remember, in my final year at university in 1989, being thrilled by the performance of a young student cricketer from Durham. He was called Nasser Hussain and, representing the Combined Universities, he scored a brilliant century against the professionals of Somerset. The leader of that student team was Michael Atherton, who even then was considered to be a future England captain. No one predicted the same of Hussain, though his talent was never in doubt. In the event, Atherton and Hussain were both selected to play for England soon after leaving university, but whereas Atherton thrived, Hussain struggled and was soon dropped, becoming lost for several years to the grinding anonymity of the county circuit.

There were whisperings about his attitude--his introspection and unpredictable mood swings. He clashed with teammates and seemed at war with himself and the world around him. There was little to suggest, at this stage, that he would one day be England captain, or, indeed, that he would play for England again.

Although born in Madras, the son of an Indian father and English mother, Hussain is resolutely an Essex man. He went to school in Snaresbrook, lives near Chelmsford and has played for Essex since leaving Durham. Fie once urged young British Asians to support England at sport, rather than the countries of their ancestral origin, which for a time made him rather unpopular among the communities that had seen him as a model of progressive integration. I was present at a World Cup match between England and India at Edgbaston in 1999, during which Hussain was abused remorselessly by the Indian fans, most of whom had broad Midlands accents: "Nasser, Nasser Hussain/Everyone loves his name . …