The next Dmitri is awarded to someone who has, in many ways, defined the England cricket year. On his appointment to replace the incompetent Paul Downton, Andrew, Strauss took the bull by horns, sacked Peter Moores, canned KP and brought in the coach no-one thought was a serious candidate. He set in train a number of events that meant this was a memorable year for the game in England, but also showed that a number of key principles had been put in place.
That Andrew, Strauss has had an eventful year would be a little bit of an understatement. After his retirement from the England cricket team in 2012, he walked into the Sky commentary box for the 2013 Ashes and beyond, and proved pretty much why he should have stuck to the playing side. In a box that contained lightweights like Knight and bores like Warne and Botham, he just did not carve a niche. His whole time in the commentary box was overshadowed when he called a certain someone a certain word when he thought he was off air. In a taste of things to come, the press came to his aid, like Walter Raleigh for Good Queen Bess, and the whole thing was laughed off. Sure, he apologised, but it did rather paint a picture, didn’t it?
When my main source of comedy material was booted out after the World Cup, there became a little bit of a beauty parade to see who might fill the mighty Downton’s boots. Would it be Shiny Toy Vaughan, with his snap judgments, his greatest ever addiction and his “lad” persona on Twitter? Would it be Alec Stewart, a man who carried out the job on offer at Surrey, with a continuous role in the game, gravitas and respect? No, of course not. It was always going to be Strauss. He’d have taken the job at the time Downton took over, but they thought it was too soon. It was Strauss from the moment Downton was ditched. There was no suspense…..
When he was appointed I thought immediately “KP – gone”. While they had appeared to have papered over the cracks in 2012, the bon mot on Sky said that was a lie. I’ve had an independent source confirm to me that the divide runs very deep. That’s not exactly a world exclusive. So when KP scored that 355* there was no doubt it wouldn’t change Strauss’s mind. So while many of us still have grave problems with the way the decision was made, the justification for it, and the premise it was based on (we will not pick our team on merit alone, but on personality and held grudges), it would be unfair to say that’s the only thing he’s done. And I don’t mean the shambolic sacking of Peter Moores, which gave Strauss an early peek at how things work in the ECB Media world. To be fair to them, they’ve tightened up that aspect considerably this year.
Strauss’s clear best move was appointing Trevor Bayliss, which, in hindsight should have been done last year instead of the Moores Mistake. Bayliss has had an immediate impact on the ODI team, so that we have an invigorating, exciting bunch playing cricket we could only dream of. Eoin Morgan’s retention as captain has also been a major plus for Strauss, because received wisdom was that Joe Root would take it on as a dress rehearsal for the big job in a year or so’s time. Under Morgan, Bayliss and Farbrace, faith has been put in Hales and Roy, who both made their maiden ODI hundreds this year, given free rein to Joe Root and Eoin Morgan in the middle order, and allowed Jos Buttler to do his thing knowing he has hitters around him. The bowling looks more tricky, but if the batting is this lethal, some sins can be covered. Strauss has made this a priority and short term rewards have ensued. It does look, though, as if some long-term strategies are now in place, with key players not too old, and a modus operandi being developed for English conditions. That future is bright.
His bonus came in the form of an Ashes win. Now we’ve had some varying opinions on here about this series and its true relevance. The diehard England fan, the sort that thinks this blog is an abomination, believes this to be one of the great triumphs of the modern era, and I’ve even seen it suggested (by one muppet who seems to have disappeared) that it was better than 2005. Those of a more sceptical lean are quick to point out that pitches outside of London were made to suit our attack, and in some cases, to an unfair degree. It is a debate that will linger. To me there should be a balance to the wickets, and that home conditions should be an advantage but not a decisive one. To that degree, although it was slagged off, Cardiff was the best pitch of the series. However, the view of many was that the condition of the wickets were dictated by the ECB and possibly Strauss. He denied it, but there was that thought that England had stacked the deck. I’m not so sure, and even if I was, I’m not so sure I care that much except that no test went five days. Some barely made it to the half-way stage. That can’t be right.
But winning the Ashes gave Strauss important breathing room, an argument to counter the pro-KP faction (there still isn’t a coherent one for not picking him for the T20 team) and the media did their thing by anointing Mr Mindflick as a genius, pouring on aplomb, genuflecting to his genius. Strauss has had a good first year in charge, of that there can be no doubt, but the success of the test team other than the Ashes, and certainly away from home remains elusive. The batting is in a mess, the bowling too dependent on two bowlers with many miles on the clock, the keeper not nailed down, no spin bowler standing up to be counted and no real bright shining lights in sight. They’ve now seen off Bell, and it remains to be seen what happens next. So while the ODI side is full of hope, the test team is a massive work in progress, and quite frankly, not as good away from home as the sum of its parts. An Ashes win, as odd as it was, will only go so far. Strauss has a lot of work to do, but there is no doubt he’s been an integral part of much of this year.
I think your points re the limited overs set up are fair enough though it should be pointed out that many of those players had come into the mix some time before but were bound to be elevated by the abomination of a tournament England had in the world cup and the subsequent easing out of Bell, Anderson and Broad for instance. However I really do think is that we keep being told he’s had a good year because some of his best buds in the media tell us so. Has he really had that much influence in the way the test match team plays? His role in picking sides is overrated, even if he was hardly going to ask for Pietersen to come back, there were plenty of ECB aparatchiks, Tom Harrison for one, who weren’t in favour of that sleeping dog being awoken. In any case much of the real story about the way the England team approaches test cricket was the fact that some of the existing players, Root, Stokes, Wood in particular were starting to stamp their own authority on the team and play in a more expansive manner as they did versus New Zealand at Lord’s.
The rumours over the pitches included Lord’s in the Ashes, where the meme going around was that a flat pitch being devoid of pace and bounce would favour England and that Strauss was involved in making sure the pitch was more in the manor too. It looked all a little silly at the time and if there was a policy then it backfired quite badly. It is hard to know however if all of that was exaggerated one way or another. I’m sure the anaemic look of England’s bowling there resulted in the greener pitches we saw at Edgbaston/Trent Bridge.
I was one who never really rated Strauss as a tactician/strategist as a player, but a steady hand on the till when he was a captain and his captaincy almost became regarded as saintly as a result of Cook’s 2013/14. So many in the media forget that Strauss himself had a very poor final 3 years as a batsman alone and in some respects was lucky that his captaincy insulated him against the drop for longer than it might have done.
The key work that he should really be judged on is what happens with player development and the issue of Loughborough. I also think that the way players are managed such as keeping key players such as Root, Stokes for two should be seen as a strategy for the continuing development of the younger side. It is that in a couple of years time that I will judge him on.It seems that some progress is being made on that and that 3 format players are likely to get burnt out quicker. Then again HE said that for ages. And for a final penny for your thoughts I just wonder if the divide between HIM and Strauss became wider and wider after Mooresgate mk I as seems to have been hinted at in the past?
Reform of the selection system was an issue Strauss flunked when appointed. It’s not about personalities (although Whitaker is manifestly out of his depth) but the conflict of interest with selectors also functioning as county coaches. The good chap-ness of Newell and Fraser is not an adequate answer.
The whole issue seems rather forgotten about. I wonder if Strauss is happy to keep the selectors dangling as a body that fears imminent abolition is usually tamely compliant.
Er….. where’s Dmitri #6?
Some people go through life working their backsides off, and get given nothing in return. Others get almost everything handed to them on a silver platter.
When Strauss retired from cricket he walked into a media role he was totally un suited for. His commentary was bland, lacking any real insight. ( not surprising from a one trick pony captain who relied on “bowling dry.”) he had no humour, and a voice made for silent movies. I would love to know if the ECB pressurised Sky to give him the job? Probably not as they seem to love having former ex England captains, and no one else. Except Bumble of course ,who can do comedy.
And then there was C*** Gate. A more conspiracy minded person might be forgiven for thinking this was Strauss’s job application and CV for the ECB all rolled into one. There was nothing subtle about this expression of belief. And it played wonderfully with the usual suspects. From the moment Colin Graves realised he had backed himself into a corner by offering an olive branch to KP, Strauss was nailed on as the (get Graves out of jail free card.)
As to his so called genius in the one day format, let’s be honest. Almost anyone on here for the last 2 years could have told you what was wrong with England’s ODI approach, and could have made the necessary changes. We had endured 25 years of top order test players like Nasser, Atherton, Vaughn, Strauss himself, and Cook play a boring, safety first style. Bat normally for 35overs , keep wickets in hand, and then slog for the last 15. Strauss’s great fortune was to come in after 10 years of 20/20 cricket in which the bleeding obvious was too much to ignore for even the brightest Tim nice but dims at the top of English cricket.
Napoleon famously said give me a lucky general over a good one. Strauss is that lucky general. Oh, and it helps if you are an ECB establishment man too. Perfect fit for an organisation that prefers the right type of school over merit.
LikeLiked by 1 person
The South African-born Andrew Strauss…. He’s got no lobes to his ears, is that a sign of being risk-averse? Or of bearing grudges?