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Sensible Strauss just the tonic

Ben Dirs | 18:17 UK time, Thursday, 8 January 2009

Warner Room, Lord's

Managing director of the England cricket team Hugh Morris gave new England captain Andrew Strauss the most cursory of introductions before melting into the background in the Warner Room at Lord's.

Having refused to answer questions on Wednesday, the man accountable for the performance of the England cricket team spent Thursday's news conference hiding behind a food counter. It was left to Strauss, like a head boy filling in for his headmaster, to convince those in attendance that everything would be OK.

"It hasn't been an ideal situation," said Strauss. "I don't think anyone has come out of it particularly well. But it's happened. We need to move on."


It is Morris who is ultimately responsible for hiring and firing captains and coaches, and it was Morris who should have been sat next to Strauss explaining why England are in chaos six months ahead of an Ashes series.

"We've made a mess of things, this should never have happened." These were the sorts of things you wanted Morris to say. Instead, he skulked.

Strauss is, in sporting parlance, a 'safe pair of hands'. Sensible haircut, sensible suit, sensible sentences. All in all, a sensible choice.

While Kevin Pietersen is a Maserati, Strauss is a Ford. That's not meant as a criticism of the Middlesex opener. Maseratis are more likely to go wrong. And when they do, they're very expensive to fix. When Fords go wrong, you can easily part-exchange them.

And Strauss, unlike Pietersen, is unlikely to issue ultimatums, in the words of former skipper Nasser Hussain, while "sitting on safari".

"I've spoken to Kevin a couple of times, it's a tough situation," added Strauss. "But he's been very supportive so far. I'm sure he's got his own side of the story."

Strauss did not deny there were divisions in the England dressing room, but insisted the media were making them out to be "greater than they are".

"I'll have conversations with the players over the next week. It's going to take effort on everyone's behalf. It's not going to be hunky-dory from the start."

England fly to the Caribbean for a four-Test series against West Indies on 21 January. Strauss, who admitted certain players had been "pushed into corners", does not have long to coax them out.

Mercifully, he has experience in the job, and possesses a ruthless streak. He captained England in the summer of 2006, when Michael Vaughan was injured, leading the side to a 2-0 Test series victory over Pakistan.

But Andrew Flintoff replaced him for the ill-fated Ashes series the following winter, and he has skippered his country only once since, against West Indies at Lord's in 2007. He probably thought his chance had gone. Lucky for him the ECB seems to have had its fill of Big Time Charlies.

Typically, Strauss's appointment as Test skipper, while solving one problem, creates another. While Pietersen also captained the one-day side (and is far and away the best batsman in the team) Strauss hasn't played an ODI for England since April 2007.

Furthermore, his record in the shorter form of the game isn't spectacular, with two hundreds from 78 matches, the last in the summer of 2005.

England's selectors clearly don't believe Strauss is good enough to be in the one-day side - they would have been picking him if they did - but there is a distinct lack of alternatives. And plumping for Kent captain Rob Key, as some have suggested, would be just as big a gamble as plumping for Strauss.

The selectors will meet on Friday to decide the make-up of the one-day and Twenty20 squads, and also who will replace Peter Moores as England coach.

England's current batting coach, the no-nonsense Andy Flower, is favourite to land the role, at least on a short-term basis. Judging from the rumours of rifts emanating from the England camp, the ECB might want to find out what Kofi Annan's up to instead.

"If Australian cricket fans thought Ricky Ponting and his men had pre-Ashes problems," crowed the Canberra Times on Thursday, "they needed only to watch England's leadership descend into farce to feel things may be looking up."

"The Ashes are still a long way away," countered Strauss. "There's time." No outlandish boasts. Nothing flash. A sensible man trying to draw a line under chaotic times.


  • Comment number 1.

    Please, please Phil.

    On one of the boards I've been vociferous in moaning about the side of KP which is testosterone fuelled - both as batsman and captain - and here you are stressing Stauss's 'safe pair of hands'.

    Is there not an in between?

  • Comment number 2.

    eccles45 - In short, no. Who exactly would you suggest? Ian Bell? Not assured of his place? Andrew Flintoff? Never again. Alastair Cook? Not exactly rocket-fuelled. Steve Harmison? Exactly.

  • Comment number 3.

    Am in such a tizz that I've got me McNulty's and Dirs mixed up.

    Sorry, Ben - but my moan is still the same. Why emphasise Strauss' "safeness"? A few wise posters recently pointed out to me that it wasn't MV's niceness/safeness that succeeded in 2005

  • Comment number 4.

    eccles45 - Why emphasise Strauss's safeness? Because it is in complete contrast to the distinct gamble they took with Pietersen, which has just exploded in their faces. And me suggesting Strauss is 'safe' off the pitch isn't the same as me saying he's going to be safe on it. Hopefully he'll be a nasty so and so. He'll have to be to beat the Aussies.

  • Comment number 5.


    But I would have been a lot happier if your banner had been something like

    "Morris hides behind a safe pair of hands"

    Yes, I agree with what you say about Strauss but the role of the ECB in all of this is a disgrace - and Morris'

    o reading out of a statement last night
    o cursory introduction of Strauss today

    are both cop-outs of the highest order.

    [end rant]

  • Comment number 6.

    Personally, I think Strauss should have been made captain when Flintoff was given the position.

    If the ECB hadn't been so interested in chasing tabloid headlines and beefing up their TV deals, they would have recognised Strauss' performance in Pakistan for what it was... Confident, understated and assured.

    It worked for Mike Brearley and I think we could do with it now. I prefer to know that my England captains have had a good few days studying the oppo before a game, rather than being in the pub, on a Nike shoot with Thierry Henry or gadding about with Girls Aloud.

  • Comment number 7.

    I'm pro KP, for a few reasons.

    Firstly, I believe he has the biggest set in the dressing room and might have finally encouraged players like Bell/Panesar/Cook to improve and develop a 'mean' streak. I can hardly see Strauss fostering such arrogance.

    Secondly, the ECB were well aware about this rift prior to KP's employment as captain. In KP's view, as ruthlessly determined as he is to improve the team his only mistakes were (albeit a rather gross one) to misjudge dressing room support and to sit on safari. Now England have lost the biggest winner in their team to instill a real cutting edge. The rest could learn from his approach to his cricket.

    Moores had to go once this came to fruition, I just wish KP had managed it a bit better as I really think he has what it takes to become a great captain. I can't blame him for misjudging the dressing room, after all he probably believed the rest of the team were as intent on improvement as he was. Clearly not, Bell/Harmison probably enjoyed the cosy relationship with Moores and not being pressured to perform.

  • Comment number 8.

    Strauss is not a whole lot different from Vaughan. He has proven credentials in securing a series win against Pakistan - followed up by the inapporpriate appointment of Freddie as skipper.

    In the circumstances, Strauss was the only option. No one else, save Cook, is guaranteed their place except for the previous failures...

    Just beacuse he is a public school boy does not mean he is a soft touch. I wish him the best of luck and he has a large slice coming his way in playing the Windies first up beforee encountering an Aussie side on the wain. Fingers crossed...

  • Comment number 9.

    Maw 51 - I agree that KP might not have shot his bolt entirely and may captain England again, but Strauss must be given the chance to make it work - 2 series to prove himself; I think he might just surprise a few people...

  • Comment number 10.

    Yes, the thing that makes this distressingly frustrating is that KP was actually spot on. Moores is not good enough. He just went about it the wrong way.

    It took the guy with biggest determination to improve and improve others around him to point this out, unfortunately the rest of the team aren't this ambitious or ruthless.

    If they were, we would be a better team all round.

  • Comment number 11.

    Agreed. If only KP were not so headstrong, yet that's what makes him as good as he is...

  • Comment number 12.

    I've commented elsewhere how the ECB needs to learn hard lessons from this incident. I'm also revising my opinion of Steve Harmison after his comments. Mind you, if this shows he's regrown the set he appears to have lost and he demolishes the West Indies then perhaps some more good can come of this beyond Moores being sacked. If he doesn't then I'd leave him to rot at Durham.

    One rule I would bring in is similar to one Clive Woodward bought in for England rugby - say anything to the press about what goes on behind the scenes then you never play for England again. I'd add that you lose your central contract if you do that.

    This could and should have been dealt with behind closed doors. But the ECB lacks any man management ability and certainly has no understanding of how to deal with very motivated people, of which KP is definitely one.

  • Comment number 13.

    Agree with post 6. After the Pakistan series victory, I felt then that Strauss should have got the job, not Freddie. Shame it has take the ECB a long time to realise this.

    People see him as a soft touch, but just because he is softly spoken, doesn't he is soft, far fom it. I believe he has the steely determination to succeed, and has shown the tactical nous to do a good job.

    Let's now drawn a line under this sorry saga, and support Strauss as we head towards the Ashes. The Aussies are still strong enough to win, but are there for the taking, so if we aren't fully prepared we could miss a great chance to regain the Ashes.

  • Comment number 14.

    Didn't England beat Pakiston 3-0 in the series, and it was an assured and ruthless streak.
    U don't have to be FIGJAM(KP) to be ruthless. A quite person can be as ruthless than an over the top egoistic person.

    Struass has back to back series against a poosr opposition and winning those 2 series can put in in good stead to takle the aussies who rnt the supreme force they were once. So good luck strauss.

    KP should have learnt how to deal and win within a system. He couldn't takle the system in SA, so he came here, If he cant takle this system, what will he do?????

  • Comment number 15.

    'Easily part exchanged'? An unfair comment perhaps.

    Strauss did have a drop in form, however when firing he is a very impressive batsman. If he had retired the day he had enough test caps for Wisden he would have retired second of all time behind Bradman. His contribution in the 2005 Ashes was not a small.

    Perhaps 'easily repaired' would be fairer.

    The character of the captain being less important than the belief there had to be one captain for all three forms got us to this point. That and possibly the probably mistaken appointment of Moores.

  • Comment number 16.

    Scratch that. The Ford would be 'missed and and an identical model would be sought as a replacement." Fairer to AS methinks.

  • Comment number 17.


    If you manage a Maserati (KP) correctly and fuel it with the right octane (sadly not PM), it can outperform the Porshes (say SA) and Ferrari's (say Aus) of the cricketing world.

    A Ford may seldom breakdown, but will probably never challenge the other supercars.

    For how long do you want a safe pair of hands? Have courage and go out on a limb. Look at what SA and India have done recently.

  • Comment number 18.

    Putting to one side the little local difficulty of finding an England captain worth his place in the side I do think we should take Mr Dirs to task for his appalling treatment of Robert Key. Using Keys name and the word "plumping" in the same sentence begs a return to the old Gatting type jokes (and I will be first in line).

  • Comment number 19.

    "A Ford may seldom breakdown, but will probably never challenge the other supercars."

    Ford GT?

    This metaphor has gone too far.

  • Comment number 20.

    Strauss as captain is ok,the chap is middle ground,a sound stable bloke,but it wont be good enough anymore in a world of cricket teams who have moved on and in some cases light years ahead of the broken down england set up.In the last few years the england selectors and ECB have learnt nothing.They still bathed in the 2005 win against the Aussies as if it was the be all and end all.The england team didnt move on and the new coach was out of his depth.KP was never the best choice as captain this early in his career but he is right about the english team and management.If you cannot compete at the new levels set by India,South Africa and Sri Lanka then dont bother.KP just wanted 11 dedicated fearless players who wanted to win at any price and a coach who understood this passion.He got neither and now he has gone.Quite frankly the england set up do not deserve KP.Im sure Strauss will be courteous in defeat and smile when the Aussies walk off yet again with the ashes.
    As for english cricket in general,its making sure it confines itself to third rate status within the next few years.

  • Comment number 21.


    What do you think is at the core of the ECB's reluctance to change?

    I agree with your summary of what is a sad reality in English cricket.

  • Comment number 22.

    Strauss is just a very average batsman , it won't be long until he has yet another slump in form but whilst he's captain we won't be axed.

    The ECB should ask pietersen to return as captain back he is realistically the only player guaranted his position in both forms of the game.

  • Comment number 23.

    alb1on - That was totally unintentional!

    DavidLeigh - You can always do with a Maserati in the batting line-up - the more the better - but I'm not sure you necessarily need one as captain. Sometimes lavishly-gifted players work best as captains, other times players of rather modest talent are more effective. Look at Mike Brearley, who, it is said, had a "degree in people".

    To those suggesting that KP was determined to improve those around him and others weren't willing to follow, I can see your point, but there are different ways of getting your players on-side. KP's way, it appears, has caused ructions in the camp.

  • Comment number 24.

    I quite agree with those above that said that Strauss should have been captain after the Pakistan series and for the Ashes last time. If I remember it helped his batting too!

    Appointing Freddie, great player though he is, was asking too much of him though I don't blame either him or KP for taking the honour of skipper.

    I think that Strauss will be just what England need, a calm head in a crisis, not out and out passion which can win or lose very quickly.

    Good luck Andrew, we all hope you can get the Ashes back!

  • Comment number 25.

    Lets forget about Fords and Maseratis. What we want is a good captain! Neither should the selection be made because he is the best batsman or bowler. The only qualification should be his captaincy qualifications. Perhaps we should be changing those who do these appointments and not the captains!!

  • Comment number 26.

    Yeh, you're right, let's forget about Fords and Maseratis. Who started that rubbish anway?

  • Comment number 27.

    Hi Ben, have to say that maw501 speaks completely for me. KP seems the only one trying to exhibit a ruthless, winning mentality.

    It's seen a lot in the UK, people turning away from challenging staff in favour of those who will not make waves.
    It's only a point of view, but I mourn the loss of KP. How much do you think he wanted to win next summer??

    Bell/Colly/Harmy were always going to be unsupportive, they're not going to like it if they're asked to step up, I really believe they have a cosy deal. If Pietersen had only realised this, he may have gone about this "ultimatum" in a different way and been more successful.

  • Comment number 28.

    Strauss is a classy player and a good choice. Neither Pietersen and Flintoff should be captain - we all know they're the best two players in the side, so how much more logical it is to have an intelligent captain in the mould of Brearley or Vaughan to determine when and how to best use them to utlise their brilliance but protect them from the excessive pressure they will put themselves under as captain.

    And no more Moores... oh thank god. The Steve McClaren of cricket...

  • Comment number 29.

    I really hope it works for Strauss. He comes over as intelligent and diligent. He scored a lot of runs when he first came into the side, but when opposition sides seemed to have the measure of him he had the courage, determination and patience to reinvent his batting, cutting out most of his scoring strokes to protect his wicket.

    However, it does seem that he's only just feeling his way back into the side and cementing that opening batting position and I hope that the captaincy, especially at this time, does not bring too much pressure onto him.

    While it is not paramount that the best batsmen or bowler becomes captain, they should ideally be good enough so that the media isn't constantly questioning their selection.

    I don't think it would take more than a handful of low scores before the knives started to be sharpened again, particularly if Strauss is expected to lead the one day side as well.

  • Comment number 30.

    YorkieBlades - I agree its vital that the captain is able to prove he's worthy of being in the team on merit as well as due to his position.

    But lets face it, Ian Bell has spent 4 years in the England side without ever delivering when it mattered, and almost completely immune to media criticism for most of that time (certainly the media, including the BBC, has never reflected the supporters opinions of Bell until very recently when his Teflon shield seems to have finally disappeared) so if Strauss - who's done infinitely more for England when it matters than Bell - is having his positioned question again in due course, it really will be beyond baffling.

  • Comment number 31.

    Even Ford have produced supercars, Indicars and F1.'

    Much of what we project onto cricketers is over hyped.

    Pieterson is a special 50 + average batsman.

    Strauss a good 40 ave bat. So were Atherton/Hussain.

    Strauss has qualities that Pietersen stuggles with; calmness, shrewdness, consiliator, gritty, quiet communicator and motivator, one who share's and measures reality better. Now at 31, experienced, seen things come and go, seen what works/fails at the highest level.

    Strauss has some strong and experienced figures in the dressing room


    If Strauss can harmonise these figures (3 of whom have known what it feels [disappointment/shame etc] like to lose a captaincy role [Pedlogate, Safarigare, Twinskippergate]+Strauss), and get them firing in the right direction before easter; Strauss has an excellent Ashes chance.

  • Comment number 32.

    Perhaps KP should had invited Colly, Freddy, Harmy, Bell and Jimmy Anderson on his Safari; and then given his ultimatum from Botswani or whereever; with Pimms in hand. ECB would have been well and truly knobbled.

    However, Kev wasn't that bright with his ultimatum. No plan B/C

    Basically the ECB strategically undermined KP and any team authority ; divide and rule, by their tactic to covertly canvass players (bit like a boardroom meeting and take other).

  • Comment number 33.

    Good luck Andrew. What goes around comes around and you were treated poorly after winning the series against Pakistan including showing top form yourself. What happened next? Oh yes, you got dumped on and the captaincy given to Flintoff for the reasoning he would get the best out of Harmison in Australia. What happened next? Oh yes, the first ball of the series went to second slip and we lost 0-5....

    I find it astounding that Morris is a 'managing director' The ECB is ultimately a business and it cannot have an MD who was yet another ex-pro and a jobs for the boys appointment. The ECB needs outside people proven in these roles e.g. a new Lord Tesco. Real lack of experience has been shown and dreadful man-management skills.

    So, an England sporting side has lost a captain and coach in the same day and, oh yes, has a head of selectors who is an (unfunny) after dinner speaker. Anyone heard sight or sound of G.Miller these past few days?? Thought not. Here's a man best known for last year picking a county trundler over three of the Ashes 'fab four' from 2005 and not surprisingly he disappeared after one test.

    You couldn't make it up.

  • Comment number 34.

    Andrew John Strauss has been my favourite player in the England team, so I am over the moon that he has been appointed captain. And I see no problem in him being given the captaincy in the shorter versions, he's a perfectly competent ODI player and such is his intellect that I can see him adapt perfectly well to all formats.

    As far as Kevin Pietersen is concerned, I think it's perfectly fair to say that for all his faults he's much better than Roy Keane! Both of them had their issues with their national managers and over other issues and also influenced strong partisanship among teammates and in their national societies, both are/were world class players who were mercilessly driven to succeed. But while Keane thought nothing of using the worst kind of language towards his boss and trashing him in his autobiography, KP at least is a more polite, well-mannered individual! :)

    I think KP now needs to work hard to earn the love and trust of everyone again, and he can start by magnanimously turning down the IPL offer. I'm sure he'll do well as a batsman in the Windies, I'm not worried about his form.

  • Comment number 35.

    typical old school brigade response.....
    Strauss was always going to be captain. No one at the ECB wanted KP to rule to the roost as he goes against everything the ECB stands for. KP was probably the best captain England will never have.

    Well done to England. They have again been made a laughing stock. Don't know if we should cry or laugh...

    Strauss can't even get into the One day team and has only just got back into the Test match arena. Just because he has a good sentance, we'll make him captain. Brilliant. Nothing to do with the fact that there is noone else to take the mantle because of the way grass roots cricket is in England.

    If you turn up in your dad's Jag or Range Rover, you'll always get into the team....

  • Comment number 36.

    Captain Ferrari, that is ridiculous. Captains in all walks of life are selected, not for their out and out talent (undoubted in KP's case), but for their leadership ability. They also come in all shapes and sizes. Compare the diminutive Hitler or Napoleon with Storming Norman Shwarzkof from Gulf War 1991 (6'6" and physically very imposing). Then there's Brearley against Viv Richards or Graeme Smith; different characters, all of whom were highly successful.

    The dig about the Jag makes it sound like there may just be a small chip somewhere near your shoulder....

  • Comment number 37.

    The question for me is why the ECB seems to have been so surprised by what's transpired here. I'm rather confused.

    Kevin Pietersen is very clearly a brash, confident (arrogant?), up front and in your face kind of person. That's fine - it makes him who he is. Whether or not those character traits preclude being an international Test Match cricket captain is not really for me to judge (but I can't recall off hand too many famously similar characters being dominant skippers).

    Surely anyone with half a brain could have predicted that yes, he's going to wind people up, yes he's going to want his own way and even yes, he might have fallings out with 'management' about how things should be done.

    Therefore, while I'm with Nasser that it seems totally inappropriate to be 'sitting on safari' issuing ultimatums (if that's what happened). We shouldn't be surprised in the least and I can't believe the ECB was that taken aback.

    What surprises me is the stories of dressing room schisms, which seems to suggest that Pietersen genuinely posesses none of the man management skills which are absolutely crucial (see Mike Brearley's The Art of Captaincy). I think that is what's done for KP.

    Re: Strauss. I think we need to wait and see what his captaincy style is like. Everyone is different, and he's played a lot of Test cricket, in a winning side. I think he may yet surprise us all.

  • Comment number 38.

    Well, he went to the right public school...

  • Comment number 39.

    Strauss is a fair choice.

    Secondly, they should feel safe while touring WI since WI are not the side they used to be.

    Thirdly, the quickies will get good practice on pacy tracks of WI.

    But Ben one question - why cant a bowler lead Eng team ? (my bet is on monty ! ;)

    As all posting here, lets dare to something differently !

  • Comment number 40.

    i thtink we sometimes lack this steady safer streak in our teams, yes we overdo it some times, but look at the success of players like Hoggard and Sidebottom on the pitch, both similar players. Consistent, get on with the job and keep their mouths shut, i think we need a ballance in the team not one or the other. Though i will ask how come Harmison is in the team and Hoggard isnt?

  • Comment number 41.

    Re comment 17 re Fords never challenging a Ferrari or Porsche.
    In the 60`s and 70`s amost formula 1 cars were powered by Ford engines (Farrari excepted) and they one most GP`s

  • Comment number 42.

    It always amazes me that the English can think of nothing else except the Ashes.
    Yes, playing against Australia, who are the top team in the world, is the biggest test for any team. But your disregard and arrogant dismissal of the other teams is flabbergasting, but unsurprisingly shows in England's results against them.
    South Africa beat England convincingly last year, but all the posts I read here were about the Ashes, with but a cursory mention of the series against India, which you lost. The same will happen against the West Indies, who seem to be on the up.
    Fact is, KP should never have been saddled with the captaincy, no matter how much he wanted it. He's a great player and should've been left to do what he does best.
    Also, he needs England and England need him, that much is obvious.
    Finally, South Africa is well-rid of him. Can you imagine KP and Graeme Smith in the same team? The fireworks would've been spectacular!

  • Comment number 43.

    A lot of people have mentioned Mike Brearley as an example of a lesser player but an astute captain. Unfortunately, he never captained England against the all conquering West Indies, which casts a small shadow over his captaincy record.

    As for dressing room divides, were the players united in the summer against SA, or last winter in Sri Lanka, or in 2007 against India under Michael Vaughan? If yes, unity doesn't matter a jot as we lost all 3 series.

    In Australia, Strauss, Cook, Bell, Pietersen, Collingwood and Flintoff made up the top 6. In India 2 years on nothing changed, despite poor performances and results in the meantime.

    We're picking the same players who aren't good enough and employing the same tactics which aren't good enough. This is why we're losing.

  • Comment number 44.

    Good article, Ben.

    Now, compared to the Test side, I really don't give a monkey's about the One-Day side. However, I don't think Strauss should be brought back in to captain it. Since he was dropped from the Test side, he has changed his batting style considerably; he now leaves much more alone, refusing to chance his arm when a ball arrives a little too wide of off-stump. This is how a Test match opener should play, and we saw in India how effective it can be. This style just doesn't suit limited overs games though, and I think bringing him back in could damage both the team and his own playing style.

    It's nice to have a unified captaincy, but it's not worth compromising too much for. Surely the Vaughan era has taught us that it is foolish to have a captain who doesn't get into the side on merit?

  • Comment number 45.

    38. Lucas: "well he went to the right public school"

    yawn..... This is such a tired, boring and irrelevant point of view. Go and post on a communism forum or something...

    Strauss (whatever his educational background) is the best appointment to steady a ship that's been pitching about for far too long... If he'd been allowed to stay in the job for the last ashes till MV came back and also immediately succeeded Vaughan when he handed in the captaincy I feel we'd have a had a much firmer foundation to build upon now.

  • Comment number 46.

    A lot has been made of Strauss being the sensible choice and his supporters point to how intelligent, calm, confident, assured etc he appears.

    Can I add "petulant" to the list?

    Having watched the debacle of the last Ashes series, one thing that stood out more than anything was the obvious failure of Strauss to show support to Flintoff as everything collapsed around him out on the field. For those of you who have forgotten, Strauss averaged 24.7 that series with a top score of 50. As a senior pro, he had a responsibility to perform with the bat and demonstrate support for Flintoff through counsel and advice on the field. He failed on both counts and instead stood there sulking.

    Fast forward to 2008, Strauss is again overlooked for the captaincy. This time he performs with the bat (in the first test at least) but where was he when it was all going wrong on the final day of that first test? Hiding once again, watching his less experienced captain flounder.

    As much as KP has an ego, so does Strauss and it's not a bad thing - egos are what help sportsmen and women to succeed. But if supporters really think that the appointment of Strauss will heal the rifts and see a triumphant march to Ashes glory based on unity and tactical genius, they'll be disappointed.

    Captain Ferrari's assertion is one that is shared by many. The problems with English Cricket extend beyond the Old Boys' network within the ECB - that same network is dividing the team as well. And let's face it - it exists within the ranks of English supporters as well, who bristled when Fletcher was appointed, tolerated him whilst success was delivered on the pitch and then turned on him as things soured. At least Fletcher was given a chance...

    Do people honestly think the Aussies or the Saffers have a team of ego-less yes-men who accept everything their captain tells them? No, they have a team of egos who are ruthlessly united behind a single goal - to be the best in the world and to dominate everyone else. KP wanted to instill that same desire in the English dressing room but was doomed to failure because the Old Boys' network think it's just not cricket.

    Let's face it, English cricket suffers from institutionalised guilt dating from "the infamous Bodyline series" (ever noticed how you can't seem to say "Bodyline series" without using the word "infamous"...?) and would much rather be applauded for its' sporting behaviour than demonstrate those distasteful traits of "competition" and "desire to win". KP's big mistake wasn't taking on the England captaincy, it was taking on the English establishment.

    And if KP chose to turn his back on the establishment and take his chances with the IPL, I for one would applaud him.

  • Comment number 47.

    The biggest problem is that England cricketers, like footballers, are highly rewarded for being mediocre, and the slightest hint of success goes completely to their heads. I was embarrassed by their talk of world domination after the 2005 Ashes. They think they are better than they are, and I include KP in that. You don't just need to be as arrogant as the Aussies, or sledge like the Aussies, to beat the Aussies, you've also got to have their determination, application and patriotism, and unfortunately, England's bunch of ' big time Charlies' don't.

    Also, Mike Brearley wasn't a good enough batsman to be in any England team, but he was the best captain we've ever had.

  • Comment number 48.

    Just because Strauss is not gobby and/ or a liability/ pr disaster waiting to happen does not diminish his captaincy credentials - it enhances them! A Ford? A mercedes maybe - not just a cheap alternative but top quality and reliable!

    Flintoff as captain was an absolute joke. Pieterson was never going to keep people happy. At least Vaughan, useless as he is now, just got his head down and got on with the job - people should let strauss do the same.

  • Comment number 49.

    i thought you english were a pessimisic breed. but no. 'the ashes are for the taking (paraphrased)!!' that's incredibly OPTIMISTIC. then... 'the aussies are on the wain'. youre not optimistic, you're certifiably DELUSIONAL. which happens every time the ashes series come back around.

    australia is going to destroy you come your summer.


    we have just been creamed by the Indians and have lost a series at home for the first time in 15 or so years against a very good SA side.

    The Indian and SA series' gave us a chance to recognise some new talent and test out the old boys. no surprises... some promising talent and the old boys will be put out to pasture. the selectors are now putting the broom through the team. In the last test against SA we had a pace attack with no more than 20 tests between them. and we beat SA. the SA team, mind you, who some now rate the best in the world. the two tests before that we had them on the ropes but were carrying Lee.

    we now go into the 20/20 comp and 50 over games blooding young batsmen and bowlers against SA and NZ. our guys are selected from the best domestic competition in the world. some of them are extraordinary. once they have been blooded they will go on to South Africa for a very tough tour. by that time we should have Clark back.

    after this little warm up, we land on your shores after England play WI- who don't even rate in the top eight anymore. you may be facing Hughes, Katich, Ponting, Hussey, Clarke, Haddin, White, Johnson, Siddle, Bollinger, Clark... plus or minus Hodge, Hauritz, Hilfenhaus, McDonald, Noffke.

    on the wain? no. 'refocusing'. for two losing series (if the selectors get it right). and in SA we'll start having a crack at being number one again. if we win the series, look out!!

    that's the difference between england and australia. we're a country always trying to prove itself. call it small-man syndrome, or post-colonial insecurity. i don't know. whatever it is, it's part of our psyche. we're not happy with just winning ONCE. we love to compete. because it gives us another chance to win. and win.

    ps. good article. KP is a great player. but he never seemed to have what it takes to lead and unite men. which is... brains. maybe a long apprenticeship with the best captains would have helped. but brains are important. this whole blow up either exposes what i suspected- he's dumb... or on the other hand, he's still too young. what ever the case, it was a big cock up that tarnishes his record and continues to stamp England cricket with it's age-old problem... administrators who don't have winning cricket as their top priority.

  • Comment number 50.

    Shoeson... well articulated.

    As danwilko51 said i must have a chip on my shoulder. My issue is not a personal one, but one of pity to the current team to be honest.

    'Young players' like Monty, Cook and Bell are great examples of raw talent who have had thier had thier riegns pulled on them. Why have they turned (been nurtured) into average players with no confidence ? They should be at the top of the tree !

    Strauss at most is an average player who has done very well to come back to regain some sort of credibility as a player.

    As a captain though, he could never get into any of the top 4/5 test nations. You need to deliver the goods before your bonus. In everyday life, if you perform well, you are rewarded. Why should cricket be any different ?

  • Comment number 51.

    Re KPs suitability for captaincy. I remember, in the 2005 Ashes, him getting out coming down the wicket, to Shane Warne, in the last over before tea. It wasn't the first time his ego got in the way of his decision making and I'm sure that it won't be the last, though at least he's improved his hair cut.

  • Comment number 52.

    Comment No. 46:

    Petulant would certainly describe Pietersen and Roy Keane, but Strauss? You're having a laugh! And it's ridiculous on your part to criticise him for at least showing initiative to play and get on with things and I think he has in more than a few ways tried to back up the captain. While in contrast you still see KP as a winner and a real professional in spite of his behaviour, which compared perfectly with that of Keane at the 2002 World Cup.

    With regard to that Ashes series you mention, I think you've conveniently forgotten that Strauss was on the receiving end of some terrible umpiring decisions that winter and you cannot blame him for admitting that the whole captaincy thing did prey on his mind. It's unfair also to say that he has an ego, in fact I would argue that his overall performances for England, captaincy or no captaincy, have been even better than Mahendra Dhoni's for example.

    Nobody is predicting Ashes success with Strauss in charge, but he will certainly be a more sombre influence than KP was. KP had his good points and could possibly have developed into a fine leader, but the fact his he shot himself in the foot with his behaviour.

  • Comment number 53.

    Firstly, I believe he has the biggest set in the dressing room and might have finally encouraged players like Bell/Panesar/Cook to improve and develop a 'mean' streak. I can hardly see Strauss fostering such arrogance.


    Agreed, but that SHOULD NOT be the role of the captain.

    The captain's job is to take the team on the field and make the right decisions from that point on. Dealing with individual player's shortcomings should be the role of the coach.

    Strauss isn't just the best man for the job, he is the only option. The rest of the team are eithr too tempremental, unsure of their place or not experienced enough.

    As for the one day job, why not pick the team and then worry about who will be captain for now. Bringing in Strauss would be stupid, as would bringing in Key, a player needs to prove themself a regular before they get made captain. The obvious choice is Collingwood, if only on a shrot term basis.

  • Comment number 54.

    queenslanda: Yes, AUS are on the wane. You won the last test of an already lost series against SA? That'd be impressive if ENG hadn't done exactly the same thing less than 6 months ago. The ashes are there for the taking? Well, AUS look their weakest for the last 15 years, so yes, they are. AUS look as weak now as I can ever remember seeing them

    cf: As a captain, Strauss has a won 3 drawn 1 record and an average of over 60. I'd put him in my side... IIRC, one of the most frequent comments during that PAK series was how well Strauss managed Monty (particularly compared to Flintoff, who'd just drawn(?) a series with SL as captain). Perhaps with Strauss as captain we'll get a bit of that Monty magic back!

  • Comment number 55.

    Strauss should have captained England in the last Ashes at least, and it seems to have to come full circle to him by default. Shoeson points on how his petulance and ego may have a role to play in his captaincy. I hope it does, he will feel he has a point to prove.

    I think we need some competition in the batting ranks again; a couple of new faces in the squad would not hurt. We need a choice of players rather than perpetually peripheral people like Shah and Bopara. Why does Shah never get a game?

    Surely there are some young batsmen out there;- Horton, Denly?

    As for queenslanda, you have named a decent batting (not outstanding) line up, but little else. The qualities your players need now are in battling: domination is not an option any more. Winning a dead rubber against a ten man team is hardly proof of anything significant.

  • Comment number 56.

    And now he's been confirmed as the ODI skipper too!

    The right decision, and I know he won't let England down!

  • Comment number 57.

    i totally agree that Strauss should be the test captain as their is no other choice currently in the side, but why is he one day captain also. With his average of 30 and lack of one day international for 2 years. This should of meant that fred should of got it or they should of given the job to Cook, this meant that we would be moulding a captain for the future. Or they shoud of brought ROB KEY into the one day side and give him the captaincy. He has been the best one day captains in recent years on the county ciruit, also he would be able to be the punisher that england need at the top of the order.

  • Comment number 58.

    A good decision by the ECB for Strauss to be captain- and in both forms. He was the only obvious choice even for the one day team as with Pietersen out of the running nobody else is there to lead the team. I dont believe that anyone but Strauss and Pietersen have the leadership and influence to run a team and think that he will do a solid job leading England.
    As to suggestions of Rob Key to lead England, how can a player who has not played for England for 4 years(let alone strauss' 2 in OD's) come into the fray and command the respect of his team all of a sudden.
    The vacant position of the head coach is also an important one and Andy Flower surely is just a stop gap. The ECB hopefully track Moody or Ford coach for this post. That said, it will be tough to attract Moody who coaches his native team and surely a future candidate for Australian national coach. Ford has earlier been courted by the BCCI as well, so there is surely no lack of pedigree there.
    The BCCI went with Kirsten(who had limited experience as coach) and with Chappell's earlier efforts put into the team, the Indian team has improved by a mile(though far from the best as yet). A similar approach could be taken by England as well and Darren Lehmann or another former international player could also take over the reins.

  • Comment number 59.

    I think it's good that Strauss gets the captaincy in all forms of cricket in that (a) he doesn't get undermined from the start and (b) there's nobody else to do it.

    However, we've not got a great one day side and Strauss does not get lots of quick runs these days. That doesn't bother me personally; I really don't care what the one day side does, it is Tests that are important.

    But the media are not so forgiving and I can't help thinking that this is piling far too much pressure on poor Strauss's batting.

    Ironically, I suppose his best chance of salvation will be a Pietersen with something to prove to bolster England's totals.

    The more I think about it though, the more inexcusable it is of the ECB not to have realised how important it was to make the Pietersen captaincy work. They should have seen this potential situation arising a mile off and should have nipped it in the bud. By all accounts the Moores / Pietersen situation had been a problem since before he took the captaincy and the ECB have had plenty of time to quietly shuffle Moores out the way.

    Anyway what's done is done. Best of luck to Andrew Strauss, he's going to need it.

  • Comment number 60.

    Benders, old chap, it never ceases to amaze me how people think that Andrew Strauss's record is inadequate for ODIs (average 31.6, I believe), but continue to say that Rob Key is the solution. Rob Key has played 15 Tests - a fair trial one would think - and averages 31.0. However, more than 40% of all his Test runs were scored in just 2 innings: take them out and his average drops to around 20. Admittedly, he only played 5 ODIs but, having failed twice against the might of Zimbabwe, the selectors felt that maybe he was not the one to restore England's fortunes.

    Like many others, I think that Strauss has been appointed captain 2 years too late. The job that he did v Pakistan in 2006 was quiet and utterly ruthless. He'll out-think Rickie Ponting all the way, the same way that Michael Vaughan did: in fact, he's quite capable to getting MV onto the field as 12th man at some time and sitting him under Ponting's nose. Rickie Ponting has shown time and again that he can cope with brash and over-aggressive opponents, but is all at sea against a Vaughan or a Smith and cracks big time. I would certainly fancy Andrew Strauss's chances of winning the Ashes by 2 clear Tests. As you can see from the whining and whinging above (post #49 is hysterical), the Australians are seriously worried and Strauss is the guy to exploit that with measured aggression and though.

    Personally, I had been posting all week that a double change at the top would be best for England and am delighted to see the selectors correct one error. Now they may correct the second and appoint Tom Moody. What's more, with Troy Cooley under intense fire in the Australian media for failing to galvanise the Australian attack, Tom Moody might just be able to bring him back with him.

  • Comment number 61.

    YorkieBlades, Andrew Strauss was good enough to score a devastating 157 for Middlesex in an early season FP match last summer. Not too many players in the current ODI set-up can claim to a List A 150.

  • Comment number 62.

    My tuppence worth to start this off again.
    Strauss is not the right man Flintoff would be the best choice. His supposed failings, minor off field incidents blown up by press and a bitter Fletcher, are irrelevant, he leads from the front and inspire the rest of the attack which is how the Ashes might be won.
    Like last time the outcome will be determined by how our bowlers deal with their batsman. The Aussie batting line up is weaker than it was in 2005. Our bowling isn't necessarily weaker if the right mix is picked. Flintoff leads the way, I'd back Sidebottom, Saj Mahmood (in the Simon Jones role) and probably Anderson as the rest of the line up. Monty and Swann have to trash out spinner slot over the 2 Windies series.
    Harmison can't be trusted.
    That gives us the best chance, 2 swing bowlers in Anderson and Sidebottom to win in English conditions, Mahmood fast and hopefully straight with the ability to reverse it and the best fast bowler in the world in Flintoff.
    Broad is unlucky but just not a good enough bowler.
    Batting - not that bothered but they should have back up as too many in the current line up are brittle. Shah needs to be tried again, for Bell probably but Colly isn't safe.
    Bopara should be the second back up man.

  • Comment number 63.

    Stargazer, true but to be fair Surrey had 3 bowlers out with flu and he had a 40 year old Chris Lewis bowling at him.

    Don't get me wrong though I do rate Strauss as a batsman and I think there's every chance he could make a great England captain. I just think it's asking a bit much of him to not only step up his performance with the bat in a form of cricket he wasn't previously considered good enough for, but also unite the dressing room and take on the West Indies (where expectation is sky high after last time) followed by the Aussies and, inevitably, the media.

    I feel he's been given a poisoned chalice and he's going to have to be sensationally good to take it in his stride.

    He hasn't got the captaincy due to a natural progression in his career he's had it dumped on him to get the ECB out of a hole that they could have avoided being in.

  • Comment number 64.

    Prima Dona's don't make good team leaders. Strauss was always the best choice ever after Vaughan and we have wasted time and helped destroy Flintoff and one hopes not KP.

    All said and done it is as well that things have come to the pass they have and better now than later.

    The selectors must keep faith with Strauss and give him time and leeway and resources needed to forge ahead!

  • Comment number 65.

    You have to laugh at this Aussie gloating.

    -They have a national side full of inexperienced bowlers.

    -They have no idea of who the leading spinner is and had to resort to a man who wasn't even making it regularly into his State side.

    -The captain's lacking of nous has been shown up since his tactically brilliant stars have retired.

    -One also has to ask if Ponting's lack of captaincy brilliance has also been shown up by Gilchrist's decision to retire. Undoubtedly a strong wicketkeeper helps a captain in the field. It's unlikely Haddin has offered the same experience and knowledge behind the stumps.

    -One of Australia's leading players has been in and out due to certain disciplinary problems.

    -Criticism of the selection committee has been huge.

    And they make fun of England.... ha.

  • Comment number 66.

    YorkieBlades, true, I have watched in wonder at the parade of has-beens and neverweres at the Oval. However, someone had to get the runs and he did. Anyway, we are getting a bit off the subject.

    Andrew Strauss went through a bad trot and was sacrificed from the ODI set-up, having previously been a reliable member of the team. It looked like he, more than anyone, missed having Marcus Trescothick at the other end and modified his style to try to compensate. I think that he'll do a good job and that the captaincy will bring out the best in him. Anyway, we had better hope that he will. Let's back the guy and see what happens.

  • Comment number 67.

    "But Andrew Flintoff replaced him for the ill-fated Ashes series the following winter, and he hasn't skippered his country since."

    Yes he has! Why I am the only one who has apparently not forgotten that after Flintoff's disgrace he was made Vaughan's vice-captain and led England against West Indies in 2007?

    As for the comments - give the man a chance. He has a lot of experience as Middlesex captain, has led England with a good record in Tests (ODIs aren't so good) - 2 wins, 2 draws, no defeats and that curious match at the Oval where Darrell Hair and the Pakistan cricket team between them decided not to play cricket.

    And cricketing stargazer has a good point about the stats - responsibility does bring out the best in him. His first season as Middlesex captain yielded 1,400 runs. He averages 55 in Tests and 33 in ODIs, the latter with a SR of 81 as captain- and is generally respected. He's what's needed!

  • Comment number 68.

    thehalfwelshman - You're only ruddy right, I've made the change.

  • Comment number 69.

    There are a lot of statements that are so inaccurate in the comments on this post that one wonders if the posters just don't know the facts and are too lazy to check them, or are willfully trying to create urban legends.

    Andrew Strauss was not "sacked" or "replaced" as captain after the ONLY series win against major opposition that England have had since the 2005 Ashes. He was made captain as a stand-in for Michael Vaughan's replacement - one Andrew Flintoff - who was, himself, injured and unavailable. When Andrew Flintoff was fit again the selectors decided that as he was the designated captain, despite Andrew Strauss's success, he had to be given the job back, although it was a very close call.

  • Comment number 70.

    I believe the ECB should accept responsibility for this torrid chapter.

    Firstly, I am not convinced the coaching position was adequately canvassed for, it would appear Moores was rail-roaded in despite there being obvious doubts over his suitability and several more apt options.

    Secondly, the appointment of Pietersen as captain was always questionable. I imagine they were looking for a 'talismanic captain' a la Smith, Ponting, Gayle, Vettori. There is no question KP is an incredibly gifted player and he's consistently the only truly world class player in the England set-up, however he was totally unsuited to the role of captain. When MV stepped down it would have been a difficult decision, but installing KP was not the right one. Really when Flintoff was named captain (another ill thought decision on the part of the ECB) it is fair to say the job should have gone to Strauss.

    The ECB is entirely culpable.

    I believe Strauss, though not a superstar is a good player, he is also intelligent, calm, affable and eloquent - all qualities that make a good captain. Let's hope he can unite the dressing room.

    Finally, let's take some time to think about who the best man for the coaching job would be, we can certainly do without any further knee-jerk reactions!

  • Comment number 71.

    As the halfwelsham states, Andrew Strauss's stats as captain are pretty good:

    In 5 Tests he is undefeated and has no score under 24, with 2x100 and 1x50 in 9 innings at an average of 55.7. His sequence of scores was: 30, 128, 42, 36, 116, 38, 54, 33, 24.

    In those 5 matches England's innings totals were:

    528, 296-8d (drawn)
    461 (innings victory)
    515, 345 (won)
    173, 298-4 (match forfeited)
    553-5d, 284-8d (drawn)

    What we wouldn't do for that kind of batting now...

  • Comment number 72.

    While we're at it, he also got the best out of some players who have come in for a lot of stick recently:

    Ian Bell topped the batting averages v Pakistan with 93.8 (3x100)

    Steve Harmison was the outstanding bowler on either side with 20 wickets @ 27.1.

    Monty Panesar was the 3rd highest wicket-taker on either side with 17 @ 30.3

    And of England batsmen, only Kevin Pietersen and Steve Harmison scored faster.

    And Andrew Strauss captained the ODI side to a 2-2 result in the series v Pakistan.

  • Comment number 73.

    Owais Shah for one-day captain. Bring him into the test side for Bell, and then if he does well, which I think he probably will, consider making him captain. He seems to have the sort of material to be a good leader.

  • Comment number 74.


    Owais Shah has not been seriously considered as captain of Middlesex in a crisis when they were casting around for someone, anyone(!!!) to take the job, does that make him a viable England captain?

  • Comment number 75.

    All good points Andy Plowright.

    And I agree with most observations you make about our inexperienced bowling, Ponting's lack of nous and Gilchrist's departure. Although I'd say Warne was probably an even bigger onfield contributor, tactically...

    but I take exception to your parallel of Australia's changing-of-the-guard to England's off-field implosion. What a mess your team is in!

    Your Captain and your Coach sacked. Petersen in the media saying "who was on his side and all of them begging him to stay, that he's has been hard done by the ECB, that he just wants to get back to doing something he loves- playing cricket". This, all out in the open. What must the other members of the team be thinking? The guy is a narcissist. He can't see the bigger picture of his actions and now his words will erode team harmony and eventually his own form- not to mention the ammunition it gives to the Aussie sledgers. The further it goes on, the bigger the mess becomes. It just further proves Petersen didn't have the maturity to captain England. I'm sure he's quickly realising it's not as simple as getting back on the field and playing the sport he loves. The consequences will sink him... for a while at least.

    Anyway... The Ashes is one of the greatest sporting traditions in world sport. I love listening to it on the BBC. Your commentators and callers are so articulate, polite and quaint. Plus it's an exciting time in Australian cricket. Listening to see if the new boys are going to make it into the big time. Whichever Aussies are over there to take you pommies on, I hope it's going to be a team of young firebrands that destroy your batsmen. They've already sent Smith home and De Villiers might be following him.

  • Comment number 76.

    A few elements of the Sunday Express article in this one Mr Dirs...

  • Comment number 77.

    give me a break. Pietersen was doing a pretty good job as captain, the board has put it's own interests ahead of the team. Please let's stop papering over the cracks with this piffle about Maseratis and Fords.

  • Comment number 78.

    if Pietersen was no good as a captain, how come he started the job with a win against SA, and then trouncing them in ODI's????!!!

    OK, the WI 20/20 nonsense went badly, then there was a tour of India disrupted by bombing, where they actually did not do badly in the circumstances.

    Or should we judge KP on his ability not to upset the ECB, rather than results???

    this is absolutely beyond sad.

  • Comment number 79.

    There is plenty of talent in England. Best wishes to the new skipper and his men.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 80.

    I agree with a number of comments that Strauss deserved to get the captaincy instead of Freddie but he kept his dignity on that occasion. I worry slightly that there is pressure on him for his batting now as despite those two, admittedly excellent, centuries in India he has cut out so many shots to come out of his slump that on lively pitches he may struggle. We should all get behind him and wish him well. As for a coach, why do we need one. Let the captain and selectors do their job and the batting and bowling coaches should be able to cover evrything else. India came here without a coach and they did okay. Too many hangers on and lets face it, young promising players seem to have gonwe backwards under Moores. Not necessarily his fault but do we really need another coach?

  • Comment number 81.

    In Pakistan Strauss played brilliantly. He took a massive nose dive in form immediately Freddie was given the captaincy, and it took him time to recover from it. I think that he will deliver his best form with the bat yet as captain - this could be the making of him. As for KP, he did English cricket a favour in ousting Moores. It looks to me as if her was treated in the usual gutless manner that the ECB deals with controversy - they cut and run - like they did with Darrel Hare. The team had looked hapless too often on the field, with no plans when the opposition got set. Against New Zealand it was particularly clear we had no preparation in terms of study of the opposition. Every batter under Moores went through a slump in form that they had to rescue themselves from - Cooke, Strauss, KP, Bell and the rest. The constant chopping and changing of bowling squad left them reeling over and over again. HE pulled in Pattinson when we could have had SImon Jones back again. Moores is a minnow - KP had the guts to say so. For that I applaud him.

  • Comment number 82.

    I think post 43 is spot on!

    I think the main thing that the England management structure should be focusing on is the poor performances from the team pretty much since 05.

    Personally, I am not too fussed who the captain is; be it KP or Strauss - I doubt either will dramatically change the fortunes of the squad.

    I assume the whole debacle probably arose because of disagreements of who should and should not be in the squad (Bell's and Harmy's name, I imagine, came up).

    The way forward surely is to now back Strauss but hope they use the coming tests with the Windies to focus on the weaknesses in the line up and prepare properly for the upcoming Ashes.

    NB - I agree, we England fans do put way too much emphasis on the Ashes - maybe if we put the same amount of energy as we do in fretting about the Ashes into any other series we play, we might win a few more.

  • Comment number 83.

    If you say that Strauss was obviously unhappy back in the ranks after having captained England to a series victory in which nearly every player performed well: So would anybody be.

    Remember 1988-1989? After Gatting's sacking (which should have happened after the Shakoor Rana argument, when it would have been correct: but the selectors having kept faith with him, he should never have been sacked over the infamous barmaid story - another appalling mistreatment), there were only two other credible candidates as captain: and the fact of Gower's previous failures meant that the job should have been given immediately to Gooch, for the second test and the rest of the series.

    Instead, the selectors passed him over, and gave the job to Emburey for two matches - a reasonable vice-captain to anybody, but never a leader, and in any case struggling for his place in the side, which he lost. And then to Chris Cowdrey for one match, who had never been good enough for Tests, and hadn't played for several years. (Forget the convenient "injury" that kept him out of the last test - anyone with any sense would have dropped him for being useless anyway.) Not surprisingly the side utterly disintegrated in all three matches.

    For the last match of the series, the selectors finally caved in to the inevitable, and made Gooch captain. And yes, okay, England lost the match, but at least this time they put up a fight, scrapping their way to a first-innings lead and - despite a batting collapse - setting a final-innings target that should have been considerably more challenging than it actually was: at least there was some hope in the display. And then England won the next match.

    Of course, India then threw a wobbly (on the grounds of Gooch's links with South Africa), the selectors stuck by Gooch as captain, and the tour was cancelled as a result. Only for Gooch to be sacked, despite having done nothing wrong as captain, to be replaced by Gower, who had already failed abjectly in his first term, against the Australians who had no objection to Gooch... I can only assume that Gower was viewed as a more media-friendly face. No wonder team morale fragmented in that series, with the captain of a decent performance being replaced by a failure. No wonder Gooch himself batted so poorly that he had to ask to be dropped. No wonder so many players got so angry with the selectors that they took the rebel tour: the only surprise was that Gooch didn't go himself, for a second time.

    Of course, after the disaster of the 1989 Ashes, Gooch was finally appointed captain again for the subsequent Windies tour, this time permanently. And, just as in his first stint, the team actually had some shape, performed creditably, and came home from the Windies with their first match victory over them for 16 years, almost drew the series (in fact could even have won it). Those who remember the 1990s as a period of "on-off" English performances, occasional good ones punctuated by awful ones, odd selections and seemingly good positions being thrown away, have obviously forgotten the disasters of 1988-9 when there WERE almost no good performances and no good positions to throw away: and have forgotten just how bad the situation was, that Gooch's captaincy years dug us out of.)

    (By the way, Gatting hadn't been a bad leader: although only two matches were won, there would have been considerably more wins were it not for rain, both in England and on the NZ tour. The less said about the Pakistan tour the better: but the umpiring was indeed abysmal and biased, although Gatting was wrong to react as he did...)

    And now I believe that Strauss, after having made a promising start in his first stint as captain (as Gooch did), and also lost it for entirely the wrong reasons, to not just one but two "more media-friendly" types (Flintoff, then Pietersen), is back in the position he should never have lost to either man, and will do as good a job as he did first time round.

  • Comment number 84.

    SheikhYabuti - Erm, then the bloke from the Sunday Express must have copied his article from me because I've never read it and this piece went up about four hours after the press conference!


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