Strauss in the spotlight as England skipper goes in search of much-needed century
12:54 GMT, 27 April 2012
Andrew Strauss knows full well, however many runs he scores for Middlesex first, his form will be among the most vexed topics of England's preparation for the first Test against West Indies.
The statistics – his outstanding past record, as much as his current and recent struggles – do not lie, and mean questions about the opener's relative lack of productivity remain pertinent.
Out of form: Strauss hasn't hit a century in almost 18 months
The England captain is not a man who appears to go to extremes, and even in his vain search for a 20th Test century in 25 innings since Brisbane 2010, there has been something of the 'steady Eddie' about the run of mediocre but hardly individually disastrous scores which have proliferated.
It is nonetheless a jarring discrepancy for a batsman who had such a knack, in his early international days, of passing three figures to have gone 18 months without doing so.
One of Strauss' great virtues, in his time as a dual Ashes-winning and world-beating captain, has been his refusal to shirk a pressing subject.
Gone: Strauss was dismissed for a second-ball duck playing for Middlesex earlier this month
He has made a career of confronting the new ball, and has always been unfazed and reasoned too whenever circumstances require public pronouncements – as they so regularly do, in his line of work – to account for himself or his team.
It seemed out of character therefore when, fresh back from England's taxing and largely unsuccessful winter in the United Arab Emirates and then Sri Lanka, that he should 'bite' on a subject which is historical enough to be a mere side issue.
It was a Bob Willis special which contended that the reason for Strauss' decision to retire from one-day international cricket, after last year's unsuccessful World Cup campaign, had more to do with the opinions of his wife than other considerations of whether it was best for him and England.
A long time ago: Strauss last hit a ton at the Brisbane Test in January 2010
'That was pretty disappointing, considering the person in question knows neither me nor my wife,' Strauss said.
'I didn't feel, I don't feel, that the talk of me finishing after that game was right.
'I can't agree with that, but those are the things you have to deal with as an England player.'
It is rarely a great idea to expound on personal reasons for public decisions. More interestingly perhaps, it does remain a moot point as to whether sacrificing the captaincy of the limited-overs team is likely to have the desired effect of extending a Test career – certainly it did not appear to do so for Strauss' predecessors Nasser Hussain or Michael Vaughan.
Whatever those imponderables, though, Strauss is a prime candidate to come through the tests of his character posed by his current lack of form.
For one thing, he has done so before – with a career-best 177 in Napier in March 2008, which followed an even longer century drought; for another, more than anyone, Strauss knows the score and the high stakes for an England captain.
'Nobody is beyond criticism,' he said recently, adding, however, that he is naturally uncomfortable if he feels he may have let his side down.
'I hate my players having to come out and defend me – as a captain you want to feel that you are one of the first names on the team sheet, so that has been very frustrating.
'But I was so determined, and feel very determined to take the team further.'