Magazine article The Spectator

A Close Shave

Magazine article The Spectator

A Close Shave

Article excerpt

LORD MacLaurin, former chairman of Tesco and present chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, summed up the qualities he requires from the next England captain: `Conduct, discipline and image'.

The job is about nice clothes, good hair, absence of chewing-gum and plenty of work with a razor. Greg Chappell was useless. True, he won thousands of Test matches for Australia, but he had a chin like coarsegrade sandpaper and required a surgical operation to remove the chewing-gum from his face.

Why is it that cricket's governors have this obsession with what they fastidiously call `facial hair'? Mike Brearley, sainted leader of men, grew a Bhagwan's beard at one stage, so he was no good. W.G. Grace - well, he may have been the greatest cricketer of all time, but what has that got to do with modern marketing?

Ah, but facial hair is the sign of what is deeply wrong - not with the bristled cricketers, but with the minds of those who run the game. MacLaurin's second sentence, in his blueprint for the ideal captain in last weekend's Sunday Telegraph, contains the words `open marketplace', `good deal', 'sponsors' and `significant boost'.

He goes on about the role of the captain and the media, how he will have 'expertise' to help him. `The public relations dimension of the role cannot be underestimated.' He must be good at sound-bites and shaving. It is absolutely clear what sort of man MacLaurin is looking for: a Tony Blair who can bat a bit.

I suspect MacLaurin is getting cricket confused with politics, and perhaps business as well. He wants his captain to have `many of the qualities we would associate with leaders in business and industry'. I think the message here is that a good leader is, on the whole, defined by his qualities of leadership.

But it is this harping on about 'image' that gets to me. Now it happens that you can base a political career on image. …

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