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December 23, 2009
Andrew Strauss may have won the Ashes at his first attempt as England captain, but that has not convinced the Australians of his leadership value. Only 4% of state and international cricketers surveyed in the Australian Cricketers' Association's annual poll rated Strauss the best opposition captain in international cricket, well behind the most revered leader, Graeme Smith, who attracted 48% of the vote.
Strauss inherited one of the game's most poisoned chalices after the Peter Moores-Kevin Pietersen split. The steady temperament and steely determination he brought to the England captaincy was widely acknowledged as having played a leading role in his side's 2-1 Ashes triumph barely seven months later, however his deeds have failed to impress his vanquished foes.
Of the surveyed centrally contracted cricketers, only 7% viewed Strauss as the best opposing skipper in international cricket. MS Dhoni, who led India to a 2-0 Test series victory over Australia last year, was voted the best rival captain by Australia's elite (36 %), with Smith and Daniel Vettori next on 29%. Smith's overall standing among Australian players was boosted by the voting of state cricketers, 51% of whom view him as the leading overseas captain.
Despite the recent change in rankings, 87% of CA contracted players identified South Africa as the leading opposing Test nation, ahead of the top-ranked India (13%). South Africa was also rated the best rival ODI side (64%) and Twenty20 adversary (33%). Pakistan, the reigning World Twenty20 champions, received 27% of the vote in that category.
Major discrepancies emerged between Australia's state and international players in identifying the leading overseas batsman. AB de Villiers, who dominated Ricky Ponting's team throughout home-and-away Test series over the past 14 months, was voted the best by the 25 centrally contracted players (43%) while Sachin Tendulkar was the favourite of state cricketers (39%). Only 14% of Australia's elite cricketers rated Tendulkar the top rival batsman, on par with Jacques Kallis and trailing Kumar Sangakkara (22%).
Dale Steyn was rated the leading opposition fast bowler. An overwhelming 86% of Australia's centrally contracted players and 53% of state players voted for the South African paceman over Andrew Flintoff, Zaheer Khan and Shane Bond. Muttiah Muralitharan, with an overall approval rating of 56%, was voted the leading international spinner.
In a significant boost the day after his recall to the Australian Test squad, Phillip Hughes was identified as the leading batsman under the age of 25 in Australia (54%), ahead of Callum Ferguson (29%) and Tim Paine (6%). Peter Siddle, who is set to make his competitive return for Victoria on Wednesday, was voted the country's best under-25 fast bowler.
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