DateLine: 20th December 2005
If David Capelís Test averages of 15.58 with the bat and 50.66 with the ball had been reversed heíd have been the greatest all-rounder in the gameís history. As it was, he blatantly failed to do what any all-rounder should Ė justify his place in the team with either one of his attributes. His batting at county level featured numerous boundary laden (but often unsubstantiated) innings, while his bowling was the sort of competent but ultimately unspectacular medium fast which the English game produces a surfeit of. The fact that only one of his fifteen Tests came alongside Ian Botham (and that was with Botham playing solely as a batsman) is telling. Capel was warmed up for the England all-rounder slot as Botham entered his injury strewn thirties, and as such was done no favours by the comparison. To his credit he did reign in his attacking instincts with bat in hand for the sterner examination of the Test arena, as a 161 ball 53 in his debut innings against Pakistan in 1987 demonstrates. With his first two Tests ending in innings defeats and his first (and only) victory coming in his twelfth match, it is easier to think of less harrowing Test careers, although there was also some consolation in the fact that of his 21 Test wickets he dismissed Allan Border and Dean Jones twice each, and Viv Richards thrice.
Unsurprisingly, Capel had slightly more success in the ODI game, where his batting could be its aggressive best, and where the nature of his bowling (mostly unthreatening, but reasonably economical) was more useful. A real one club man, he played for Northamptonshire for 17 seasons and now runs their Academy, although Derbyshire offered him terms for limited-overs matches only in 1999, which he declined. As proved by his long domestic career, Capel was a genuine First-class all-rounder, but his record had never provided compelling evidence that he would be a forceful operator at Test level. The feeling remains that his selection was an optimistic, possibly even naÔve punt, motivated by the fact that in the absence of Phil Defreitas fulfilling his batting potential, he was the closest that the English game had to a new all-rounder. Sadly though, the impression that Capel at Test level was a poor manís Botham (right down to the moustache and highlighted hair) is hard to shake.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 Matthew Reed)