Monday, June 7, 2010

Do The English Never Learn?

A typical English reaction to an untypical English victory.
Paul Collingwood led his T20 team to a magnificent World Cup triumph, and instantly the position of Andrew Strauss as Test captain is under fire. Because he wasn't there for that unifying moment, the media have jumped to the obvious conclusion that he can't lead his team anymore.

Aside from the fact that Collingwood would run a mile from the Test captaincy, this view shows a remarkable short-term memory loss. The whole point of splitting the captaincies was to take pressure off Strauss and to build a specialist T20 squad. It worked. And now, because it worked, the English media want to undo it all again.

Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss have changed the way English cricket is played. They worked hard on getting the squad fit and enthusiastic, and they have succeeded. The quality of fielding always gives us a sneak peek into the mindset of a team, and England have come on leaps and bounds. Admittedly leaving Monty Panesar out saves a few runs, but still...
Have the English fans forgotten the turmoil of last January? Moores and Pietersen gone, Strauss seemingly the fallback option because no one else wanted the job?
And look at what Straussy did. He came in, admittedly lost an inauspicious series in the West Indies, but then put things straight.
He led the team to victories over the West Indies, Australia, had a run at the Champions Trophy, and tied a series with South Africa. I remember reading countless articles when Pietersen resigned about the Aussie chuckles that could be heard across the seas, as English cricket crumbled just six months shy of the Ashes. Well those chuckles (including my own), died away pretty fast as things went from bad to worse between Cardiff and Lords. You can say (and I will) that Australia should have won that series, but the reason they didn't is simple. Andrew Strauss. No one else got runs regularly, and he led from the front. He'll be looking to do the same in Brisbane come December, and England have no better man for the job.

Maybe he shouldn't have taken the Bangladesh tour off, but all his absence did was show us that Cook isn't quite ready for the top job yet. Strauss recognized that the volume of cricket played has increased dramatically, and so have the injuries. He put two and two together and got Freddie Flintoff. England don't want Strauss crocked heading Down Under.

The fact that Struass and Flower decided that he wouldn't play T20 shows their understanding of the game. T20 is not cricket. That's not a joke, it just isn't. You need a different type of batsman. Strauss is a classy cutter who'll hang in and make his hundred - he won't crack 60 off 30 balls. He handed the reins to Collingwood, who did a fantastic job with a relatively inexperienced team. No player in that T20 team, however, thinks that T20 is the be all and end all. They want to play Test. And they want to play under Andrew Strauss.

As usual, the English media have forgotten the absent face. And they think they've found a new hero on whose shoulders they can heap the burdens of the cricketing world. The split captaincy was a smart, tactical decision, taken for a reason. To doubt Strauss's ability as captain on the strength of the Caribbean success would be to undermine everything that Andy Flower has worked for.

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