Andrew Strauss did a fine job for England, says Jonathan Agnew
What Andrew Strauss meant for English cricket could be measured by the response from the press after he announced his retirement from professional cricket on Wednesday.
He received a round of applause as he left, something I have never seen with any other departing captain.
“I think what he achieved from that very unpromising start was outstanding”
Everyone in the media respected and admired him for the way he conducted himself in the job, but much more importantly he took those same credentials and abilities into the dressing room, which is why he was so well respected by his team-mates.
When he became captain in 2009, English cricket was in disarray and he was absolutely the right man for the occasion.
England were going off to the Caribbean with no coach and there was a real air of mistrust and chaos behind the scenes, while just around the corner the Ashes loomed.
No-one really gave them a chance but Strauss and coach Andy Flower formed an excellent bond and a relationship built on trust, with both men keen to develop a strong team spirit and ethic.
What Strauss achieved from that very unpromising start was outstanding. England won the Ashes a few months later before going on to enjoy further success, becoming, amongst other things, the top-ranked Test nation for the first time.
It is always sad to see someone who has given so much effort to the cause have to go. But, although it is a shame, I think it is the right thing to do. Strauss has been very candid in saying that his form has gone and that it will not come back.
What England have to do now is work out what they are going to do - and one of the first things is to grasp the Kevin Pietersen nettle.
Strauss's departure does not change that what has happened. However, there is now a new man at the negotiating table in Alastair Cook and I suspect he will have quite a strong say as to whether he wants to go to India with the baggage that Pietersen represents.
Does he want to have a dressing room which contains a player who has not made himself very popular?
The Pietersen issue is far from cut and dried, but if you had asked the England teams of the 1970s and 1980s if they wanted Geoffrey Boycott in the side, I would bet that quite a significant proportion would say 'no'.
He was not 'Mr Popular' but England got the best out of him, without the help of a team manager or psychotherapist, which did not exist.
My point is that difficult characters can be accommodated within a team.
The difference with Pietersen is that there is a sense of betrayal, not just over the texts he sent but also with his desire to decide which games he played for England and which he did not. That cut against everything that this England team has stood for.
England still have to resolve the issue of Pietersen - and resolve it very quickly. But there will be a very strong feeling that he should prove himself before being recalled.
- Born: 25 December 1984 (27)
- Role: Opening batsman, England ODI captain
- County: Essex
- England Test debut: India v England, Nagpur, 1-5 March 2006
- ODI debut: England v Sri Lanka, Manchester, 28 June 2006
- T20 debut: England v West Indies, the Oval, 28 June 2007
The first option is to leave him out of the tour to India and see what he does to fight his way back into the team.
Option two is to select him for the matches against India because, when you look at the England team, how on earth are this lot going to win in India without him?
He might not be the most popular man in the world but England need to get the best out of Pietersen. But he would still have to operate within a team environment and show a commitment to English cricket.
That is what Cook faces as he prepares to settle down as England's Test captain.
At the moment, with Strauss retired and Pietersen in exile, the batting line-up against India looks incredibly fragile.
One solution is to promote Jonathan Trott to opener, with Ian Bell batting at three. My own view is that it would be easier to blood a new, young opening batsman rather than ask a middle-order batsman to open.
There are contenders out there for the position of opener alongside Cook, people like Joe Root, Alex Hales and Nick Compton. I think it will be easier to find a replacement up at the top than down in the middle order.
Cook has got an awful lot on his plate, though, and it will not be easy for him. He will need very bit of help and support from his senior players.