No 1 priority for Strauss must be his own future
22:00 GMT, 8 August 2012
22:00 GMT, 8 August 2012
It is eight years since Andrew Strauss
sat on the England dressing room balcony at Lord’s, long after the
crowds had gone, and excitedly talked to his family on the phone after a
Test debut that was the stuff of dreams.
That image, after he had scored a
century and come close to another against New Zealand, was so striking
it convinced Nasser Hussain that Strauss was the man for the here and
now and promptly retired.
I wonder if Strauss will remember that
when he turns up at Lord’s next week for his 100th Test. He has gone on
since that debut in 2004 to enjoy a distinguished career, not least in
captaining England to Ashes success home and away. But it remains far
from certain that he will end his time by leading them in two more
series against the old enemy.
Debut success: Andrew Strauss
The furore involving Kevin
Pietersen may well be playing heavily on Strauss’s mind but at least it
prevents him thinking too much about the uncomfortable truth that South
Africa have been the better side in this series and Graeme Smith has, in
the main, outfought and out-thought his opposite number.
centuries against West Indies earlier this summer eased the pressure
on Strauss but he has yet to reach 50 against South Africa and his
conservative captaincy, based on building pressure until opponents
implode, has looked worryingly ineffective when faced with proper
application and discipline.
That is not to say that Strauss
approaches his significant landmark under particular threat but the fact
that there is still even the remotest question mark over his position
emphasises what a difficult year England have had since they arrived at
the top of the Test world.
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was wishful thinking in the extreme for Strauss to say at Leeds that he
hoped the Pietersen saga would not become a distraction in the build-up
to Lord’s. It is going to dominate the next week whether the captain
likes it or not but that should not necessarily be a problem.
At least that will allow the rest of the England players to concentrate on building on their last-day performance at Headingley, when they finally looked more like the best team in the world, without the spotlight focusing on their shortcomings in the bulk of the last two Tests.
It seems certain England will stick to their four-bowler policy and bring back Graeme Swann for either Steven Finn or Tim Bresnan, based on the fact that they have won six of their last seven Tests at Lord’s that way.
Yet there are signs they really should start to look at other options, not least because of long-term question marks over the fitness of Swann, who is integral to the success of England’s Plan A.
Dominating: The focus is on Kevin Pietersen
They cannot bank on a result pitch at Lord’s, where groundsman Mick Hunt is not the type to take instructions from the home side kindly, and will be hoping for the cloud cover that can make a difference at headquarters.
I would consider playing five bowlers and batting Matt Prior at six but I advocated that ahead of the Ashes in Australia and England coped perfectly well there with just the four. The 2009 Headingley disaster, when they last went down the five specialist bowlers route, still plays heavily on their minds.
What England need more than anything is for Strauss to reassert himself, lead from the front in a winning cause and then sort out Pietersen’s future one way or the other so England can move on to the hugely difficult series against India this winter.
If that does not happen and South Africa triumph at Lord’s to replace England as No 1, it is not inconceivable that Strauss will become the third England captain to fall on his sword after a home defeat by a side led here by Smith. Maybe he will look at James Taylor, as Hussain did at him, and decide that someone else’s turn has come. It is not just Pietersen’s future that will be on the agenda at Lord’s.
Not a family stand
I really don’t get the Western Terrace — or Western Stand as it is now officially called — at Headingley.
Looking on, thankfully from afar, at the most boisterous stretch of terracing in English cricket, when the high jinks were at their peak last Saturday afternoon, all I could think was how lucky I was not to be in the middle of it.
Usually I envy crowds during Test matches for genuinely being able to enjoy the atmosphere instead of being stuck behind glass, as the media are. But not in Leeds.
I wouldn’t take my family to watch a Test on the Western Terrace if you paid me. Apparently they are going to put a roof on it. Hopefully that will put a lid on the excesses, too.
Boisterous: Jonathan Trott fields in front of the Western Terrace
Will KP pass happiness test
‘I’m going to make some decisions
that make me happy.’ Perhaps that was the most striking thing Kevin
Pietersen said in his dramatic press conference at Headingley.
hope he does. I really hope he doesn’t look back in a year’s time, if he
is not playing for England during the Ashes, and regrets not being more
careful about what he wished for.
He could and should be playing Test
cricket for England, recording 30 centuries and reaching 10,000 runs,
for another four years. Does he really want to turn his back on that
Will that make him happy We will see.
Bumble's final word
This fake Kevin Pietersen Twitter account is clearly an issue with him, but it is so obviously a spoof that he should be able to laugh at it. It’s a compliment and I think it’s hilarious! There’s no malice in it.
As a Twitter veteran I could take somebody to court over what they say to me every day but you have to shrug off that sort of thing. What Kevin should do now is end every interview by saying ‘KP genius’, smiling and walking off.
It would turn it massively to his advantage if he could be seen to be joining in the joke and poking fun at himself. It would get people on his side.