Edgy Strauss feels the heat: Under-pressure skipper running out of time
22:55 GMT, 2 April 2012
Andrew Strauss vowed to stand up as a true captain as he headed into the Test that could define his immediate future and the biggest test of his batting since his career-saving century in New Zealand four years ago.
The first signs of pressure building on the England captain were evident at the historic P Sara Oval when Strauss’s press conference before the second Test was cut short because of questions over his future.
Strauss was handling what was hardly a Spanish inquisition with his usual dignity just before he was cut off by the ECB press officer.
Under pressure: But Strauss is confident despite his poor form
‘This is one of the real challenges of
leadership or captaincy,’ said Strauss after being asked how difficult
it is to stay calm in front of his team as they attempt this week to
stave off their fifth successive Test defeat. ‘It’s easy when it’s going
well. Everyone is buoyant and patting each other on the back.
‘When times are tough, that’s when it’s
important you stand up and lead and show people the right direction. I
like that sort of challenge. It hasn’t gone our way so far this winter
but I retain absolute faith that it will turn around.
‘Sometimes you’ll go through patches where things don’t work out your way and if you retain faith it will turn around, especially if you have players of real quality, which I know we do have.’
Then, sadly, after a conference lasting fewer than six minutes, Strauss was gone, suggesting the scrutiny on his position may be getting to him after all.
Testing times: England must win to preserve their No 1 status
If a siege mentality is building up
within the England camp ahead of a Test that they need to win to
preserve their status as the best team in the world then it is a shame,
even if it might provide them with a bit of extra motivation, Alex
With the possible exception of
Michael Vaughan, who said Strauss should consider his future if England
lose here, nobody of any note has been calling for the captain’s head,
such is the high esteem in which he is held.
Yet it is perfectly understandable that there should be scrutiny on Strauss when he has scored one century in his last 48 Test innings and his team have plummeted with alarming rapidity. This winter was meant to be one of conquering the final frontier but instead it has become England’s worst losing run since the Ashes of 2006-07.
It is worth recording Strauss’s response to other relevant questions which were swept aside with less Churchillian answers than his final emphatic response.
Out of nick: Strauss has gone 48 test innings without a ton
HOW THEY LINE UP
Sri Lanka (probable): Thirimanne, Dilshan, Sangakkara, M Jayawardene (capt), Samaraweera, Mathews, P Jayawardene (wkt), Randiv, Herath, Prasad, Lakmal.
England (probable): Strauss (capt), Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Prior (wkt), Patel, Bresnan, Swann, Anderson, Finn.
Umpires: A Rauf (Pak), B Oxenford (A). 3rd umpire: R Tucker (A).
TV: LIVE on Sky Sports 1 from 5.25am.
Is this a bigger Test than usual for you and your team ‘Not really. Every
Test is important. When you need to win the last Test of a series to get
something out of it in that sense there’s a bit more on it. We
desperately want to win this Test and make amends for what happened in
What about Vaughan’s suggestion that
you might resign as captain but carry on as a player if things go badly
here ‘That’s not something I’ve considered. People are entitled to
their opinions but I don’t necessarily share them.’
But aren’t you under extra pressure
here ‘No more so than usual. I want to score runs, but I’m very
confident and I feel we have the materials to do well in this Test.’
Does talk about your future frustrate you ‘When you play cricket you realise there will always be some story running in the background. The most important thing is that you don’t let it distract you.’
Sizing things up: Strauss looks at the Colombo wicket with batting coach Graham Gooch
There is nothing that anyone connected with England would like more than a Strauss century in a winning cause and at least the P Sara wicket, which was cracked on Monday, should live up to its reputation as a result wicket.
But that is probably the only decent reason for this game being staged here because of local politics and the desire to hold this game at the same venue where the inaugural Test against England was played 30 years ago.
The ground holds no more than 4,000 and around 6,000 visiting supporters are said to be in town. It is another example of shambolic leadership from the new Sri Lankan board.
It can only be hoped that those who have managed to gain admission see another absorbing contest – ideally, from an England point of view, with Strauss batting for an awful lot longer than he entertained his audience on Monday.