New captain Westley facing a longer wait to lead Essex after MCC clash is cancelled
PUBLISHED: 07:00 17 March 2020
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Tom Westley was expecting to be shaking hands with Kumar Sangakkara on his first official outing as Essex captain.
But the cancellation of their Champion County match against the MCC in Galle, Sri Lanka means he will have to wait until the start of the domestic season to lead the team onto the field.
Whenever it comes, Westley, 31 last week, said: 'It will be a special feeling. It's a huge honour to be made captain of a huge, successful club like Essex, the most successful team in the last 40 years in terms of silverware, I'm told. I think every player in the team, any county player, should have the intention to lead.'
Yet it was not at the top of his agenda before his elevation from vice-captain to replace Ryan ten Doeschate was announced in January.
'To be honest, when I was a bit younger, a bit more brusque, it was something I wanted to do - and obviously still want to do - but as I've got a bit older it hasn't been a burning desire compared to when I was younger,' he added.
'That could have coincided with the fact we've had a fantastic leader in Tendo for the last four seasons. I've been very happy being his vice-captain. He's been brilliant to play under.
'Also, my ambition was to play for England [which he did five times in 2017] and perhaps the Essex captaincy wasn't as high on the list at the time. But now I've got it I appreciate what a huge honour it is for me personally.'
In nearly a decade and a half in the first team since his debut in 2006 under Darren Gough, Westley has served captains of the calibre of Ronnie Irani, James Foster and ten Doeschate. The latter is a beacon in his successor's eyes.
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'One of Tendo's greatest strengths was the relationships he managed to generate between all the players and staff: he was a stand-up guy, someone who was very approachable whether you were the youngest in the squad or the most senior,' said Westley.
'I know they are huge boots to fill in terms of what the club has achieved, but actually in terms of captaincy and leadership I'd rather be judged on my relationships with the players; how and when they're prepared to follow me.
'Yes, I'd love to win Championships and silverware, but for me personally, becoming captain is about the quality of my relationships and leadership amongst the club. With Tendo, for example, you could be open and honest - and he'd be honest back. It's important to be able to trust your leader.
'Ronnie spoke to me when I became captain and said it's a good opportunity to really concentrate on your batting because that takes a lot of pressure off you. He said, if you can take care of your performance, and be the best possible professional you can be, then you can lead by example.'
The newly married Westley won't want for advice from the ranks - Sir Alastair Cook, Tendo, Simon Harmer and Varun Chopra all have first-hand experience as captains.
'I'd be foolish not to lean on them at certain times because there's so much knowledge in the changing room,' added Westley, not that he is a complete novice with more than 350 senior appearances and 10,000 first-class runs to his name.
From Cambridgeshire under-15s to leading MCC in Nepal this winter, via England under-19s, Essex seconds and Durham University, he has a solid leadership background. He has also stepped in four times in recent years when ten Doeschate has been indisposed - though he has yet to lead a winning side.
'The one thing I've learnt doing bits and pieces is, I've got to do it my way. I have to be myself. There's no point me trying to be something I'm not,' he said.
'We've got such a talented squad, such a good work ethic, that the results will take care of themselves.'