Three years ago, his belligerence and tactical nous stirred a nation to lift an 18-year-old hex, and by the time the "slightly-tiddly" Michael Vaughan could shake his Prime Minister Tony Blair's hand after an epochal summer that saw them reclaim the Ashes, he was already being hailed as a veritable hero and the best England captain since Mike Brearley.
Three months ago, Vaughan broke down in an emotional press conference after his side lost the home series to South Africa as he tearfully handed back the seals of office after seeing England to most Test wins as skipper (26), complaining that the demands of captaincy were turning him into someone he didn't like.
On Saturday, when Vaughan came face-to-face again with Tony Blair — an ex PM now — at the HT Summit, he could have permitted himself a slight chuckle at the vagaries of fate. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since the day the Captain Fantastic and his merry bunch came parading through London towards 10 Downing Street on an open-top bus, inebriated on success and a few pints.
On Saturday, Vaughan was an outsider, not part of England's tour of India, although he himself had sough time out from the game till Christmas. But his aim is to get better, not bitter, with age.
"I would have certainly loved to be a part of the Test squad, a little bit in me craves for that," Vaughan said. "But then again, I had asked the selectors for time out till Christmas. It's another matter that I got that buzzing energy back early — three weeks back," he said enthusiastically.
A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner, and Vaughan takes great pride in the fact that he was England's most successive captain in terms of Test wins, especially as his time at the helm was no bed of roses. Mark Taylor once said five years at the helm signified a skipper of substance. Vaughan did five-and-a-half.
"Those years were the best. I am proud to have captained England to that Ashes triumph. It was not easy but at the same time it was a rare privilege. But there comes a time in every skipper's life when he has to introspect. I realised that the team needed a change; they were tired of listening to the same voice, same speech, same accent for five-and-a-half years. I was losing something and got out of it. But it was great while it lasted and I have been very lucky."
Vaughan's day at the HT Leadership Summit wouldn't have been complete had he not talked about the art of captaincy, and his words were worth listening to for their blend of objectivity and perspective.
"Leadership is largely about instincts and using the right words at the right time. You have to repeatedly assess how and when to speak to the team and individual players and how to keep them motivated. That is extremely tough but is the key," he said. The man who drank for five-and-half years from the "poisoned chalice", and survived, should know.