Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Strauss announcement

Written before the ECB press conference, so most of the content of this is based on spurious rumours and gossip from Twitter. If the ECB announcement turns out to be about a move from Buxton water to Evian as the sponsor of the drinks break, please ignore below.

So the ECB are calling a press conference at 12, and without wanting to pre-empt anything, it looks like it will be dealing with the future of Andrew Strauss. As much as it pains me to write, it looks like Graeme Smith has claimed the scalp of yet another England captain, and Strauss is to step aside as England skipper. But is Strauss leaving his post the right thing to do for the England team?

Well, initially, it depends on how exactly he decides to leave. The first option would be the outright, effective immediate retirement from England duty. No last hurrah. No rejoining the ranks. A swift clearing of the locker and out. This would in one fell swoop rid England of not just their captain, but one of their openers, with an incredibly tough tour to India only months away and nobody with any experience ready to step into his shoes. While a re-jig could see Trott move up to the top, more likely would be a youngster like Joe Root or Alex Hales (or because I'm biased, Joe Denly or Sam Robson of Middlesex) thrown straight into the deep end of what is probably cricket's toughest tour. So not ideal then for Team England for Strauss to chuck it in then.

So what if he went the Ricky Ponting route and fell back in line as one of the foot soldiers? Well, for one, is he good enough to justify his place in the team as a batsman alone? Strauss' record over recent years has been sketchy to say the least, and it could be argued that he's only been able to keep his spot because he is the captain. Can England afford to carry an underperforming player who may well be past it with India this winter and an Ashes series next summer? And while the young pups may not have much experience, as Alastair Cook showed back in 2006, being thrown in at the deep end can reveal a player's true class. Who's to say that someone like Root, who was identified as a talent long ago and brought through the England Performance Program wouldn't excel from the off? But then (just to be awkward), what if unburdened from the captaincy, Strauss refound the form that followed him for the first few years of his test career. One of Strauss' finest hours in an England shirt came on the last tour to India - a tumultuous tour that followed a home South African defeat and the resignation of the captain. Who's to say that he couldn't do it again?

The elephant in the room, and quite probably the reason Strauss feels he needs to call it quits, however, is Kevin Pietersen. Strauss may feel that the divisions between Pietersen and himself are irreparable, and knowing that long-term Pietersen will score more runs for England than he will, has decided selflessly to step aside to help ease KP's return to the fold. But then again, if that is the case, would the fractions between the anti-KP and pro-KP camps in the dressing room (the pro-KP camp would just be KP) become even more irreconcilable if he is directly to blame for the loss of the well loved and well respected leader, making it even less likely that Pietersen can ever succeed as part of an England team again?

I really do hope Andrew Strauss doesn't give up the England captaincy, simply because it just shouldn't end this way. Strauss was meant to keep going for another year, win his third Ashes series as captain before handing over the reigns to Alastair Cook, who'd then go Down Under and win them again. Strauss is a captain that did win back-to-back Ashes, as well as leading England to number one in the world, and history will judge him as one of England's finest captains ever, and it's so undignified for such a good, decent man to have to leave over some texts and a parody Twitter account. But whatever happens to Andrew Strauss, one giant problem in the England camp needs to be decided. Back in early 2009, Strauss took over the job after a fall-out caused by Kevin Pietersen. In August 2012, it looks like Strauss will give up the job after a fall-out caused by Kevin Pietersen. As talented a batsman as Kevin Pietersen undoubtedly is, can England afford to have him causing so much damage any longer?

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