England in Bangladesh 2009-10

Strauss's absence sends the wrong message

Nobody can question that Strauss's role has been all-consuming, but now is not the time to rest

Andrew Miller

January 18, 2010

Comments: 25 | Text size: A | A

Andrew Strauss survived a testing spell from South Africa's opening bowlers before being trapped lbw by Wayne Parnell to leave England tottering, 4th Test, South Africa v England, Johannesburg, 16 January, 2010
Andrew Strauss is jaded after a tough 12 months, but in terms of England's wider redevelopment, he ought to press on © Getty Images
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Towards the end of the South Africa series, Andrew Strauss looked like a player in need of a break. Morne Morkel caused him more problems with his aggressive round-the-wicket line than any other bowler managed throughout a remarkable 2009, and his omission from the Bangladesh tour was an open secret from the moment that he ducked the issue in the immediate aftermath of England's innings defeat at Johannesburg.

That is not to say, however, that Strauss should have been allowed the time off. The decision to put the captain in mothballs for a full three-month break ahead of the start of England's home summer in May doesn't exactly rank as a controversy - although given that another Test captain, Virender Sehwag, has just denounced the same opponents as "ordinary", the Bangladeshis themselves might disagree. But the logic and timing is peculiar, to say the least.

At the very least, it would have looked a more justifiable decision had England not surrendered their series lead in Johannesburg in what was ultimately a performance of disturbing spinelessness. No matter how impressively Morkel and Dale Steyn bowled, the sad fact is that England's twin innings at the Wanderers lasted a meagre 90.4 overs between them - or in other words, they lost the equivalent of 19 wickets in a day.

Against such a backdrop, now is surely not the moment for the captain to take an extended holiday - regardless of the apparently unthreatening nature of next month's opposition. In explaining the decision, England's national selector, Geoff Miller, said that England were looking to the "far future" in blooding Alastair Cook as a leader, but that sort of reasoning is wrong-headed. In the here-and-now of international sport, the present is all that matters, especially when - in England's case - it is so coloured by the recent past.

At present England's Test team is, as Strauss himself admitted after the fourth Test, "not good enough". In the past 12 months they have pulled off a series of remarkable results of every conceivable variety bar a tie - hoodoo-breaking victories at Lord's and Durban; stunning rearguard actions at Cardiff, Centurion and Cape Town; and a trio of defeats at Sabina Park, Headingley and Johannesburg that rank among the most crushing in England's Test history - their effort at the Wanderers, in fact, makes into the top ten of England's shortest completed batting performances of all time.

The team is clearly a work in progress, just as it was this time 12 months ago when Strauss was finally handed the reins that he should, by rights, have inherited from Michael Vaughan three years previously. The circumstances of his take-over were, of course, hideous, with the fall-out of the Pietersen-Moores affair gathering pace by the day, and in addition to leading from the front with three big hundreds in consecutive Tests in the Caribbean, Strauss spent much of his early days as leader massaging bruised egos and mending vital relationships within the dressing-room. Nobody can question that his has been an all-consuming role.

 
 
To sit out the trip to Bangladesh is to miss out on what could prove to be an invaluable bonding experience. In hindsight, England's previous tour of the country, in October 2003, was one of the most under-estimated factors in the rise and rise of Vaughan's England
 

But that is the nature of the beast that Strauss inherited, and while the circumstances weren't ideal, he had quietly coveted the role since his interim appointment in 2006 had led to a (then) 3-0 victory over Pakistan. Captaincy is an arduous and all-consuming business, not least in England where the year-round itinerary and constant media scrutiny offer no chance to duck the limelight. Except in Strauss's case it does - his decision not to play Twenty20 cricket means that a natural break was already heading his way in April, just as it did in the previous World Twenty20 last June.

What is more, to sit out the trip to Bangladesh is to miss out on what could prove to be an invaluable bonding experience. In hindsight, England's previous tour of the country, in October 2003, was one of the most under-estimated factors in the rise and rise of Vaughan's England. Then as now they went into the tour on the back of a chaotic drawn series with South Africa, in which a handful of major plus-points (eg the rise of Flintoff then, versus the rise of Swann now) were offset by some unmitigated hammerings (for the Wanderers, read Lord's).

Back then, Vaughan took his raw materials to a country where the expectation of victory created a pressure all of its own, and turned the tour into a six-week beasting session. In the absence of much in the way of a social life, the entire squad hit the gym - press officers and support staff included - and emerged as a lean, mean fighting machine that went on to win six of their next seven series, including (as if we could ever forget) the 2005 Ashes.

It could, at a pinch, be argued that Strauss's absence will test the team's wider development, because he has been unhealthily pivotal to their fortunes in the past 12 months. In five Test victories, he has averaged 61.85 and in eight draws 56.53, but in three crushing defeats he has contributed a paltry total of 73 runs at 12.16, including that tone-setting first-baller at Johannesburg. If England emerge from Bangladesh with a realisation that his success or failure need not determine the final result, then it will be a valuable lesson learnt.

But it is the wider question of team unity that is more pressing. Cook may well be the man to lead England in the still-distant future (though he's provided scant evidence to date), but right now he is only just emerging from a long-term batting slump - and then there's Kevin Pietersen, who is in desperate need of an injection of confidence after an unforgiving year, and for whom the Bangladesh tour actually presents a massive and timely opportunity.

The selectors have explained their decision by throwing the picture forward to next year's Ashes and World Cup, but surely the lessons of the past cannot have been forgotten so quickly. England's Ashes obsession famously derailed their development after 2005, and while this time there's an increased focus on one-day cricket to ensure against a completely one-track approach, the Bangladesh ODIs are still England's last chance to rehearse in subcontinental conditions before 2011.

Besides, as the recent turnover of England Test captains demonstrates, a year is an eternity in cricket. In the case of 2010-11, it starts when the team touches down, without their leader, in Dhaka.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Ashiklamy on (January 24, 2010, 18:05 GMT)

We would be very happy to see ENGLAND in BANGLADESH, /would be very happy too to see ENGLAND doing well here.................... But i have a suspect that England may prove themselves a far weaker opponent here.............. Even Australia , South Africa, or India do not think to give their players rest while touring to ENGLAND. ENGLAND seems to be brave enough to do so..... Well....... waiting to see the matches...............

Posted by D.V.C. on (January 19, 2010, 17:34 GMT)

Whatever the result of this selection, I can see a lot of headlines featuring 'Captain Cook,' 'ship,' and 'Endeavour' in the next few months.

Posted by pestonji on (January 19, 2010, 16:14 GMT)

This article exemplifies the stupidity that has plagued English cricket (their journalists are part of the problem) for the last 30 years. BTW, why is Cook still on the team? I can't remember the last time he put together a string of decent scores.

Posted by Natural_Outswing on (January 19, 2010, 6:26 GMT)

Strauss should definitely sit out the Bangladesh tour. If he feels he needs a rest then this means he needs a rest. More generally, playing a series like this risks injury to anyone who goes. The whole first team should sit it out and we should send a reserve side who will be glad of the exposure, with perhaps Cook to captain and bat number six. And we'd still win.

Posted by nickinsingapore on (January 19, 2010, 3:31 GMT)

Andrew miller shoots himself in his own foot, on the one hand he is berating the England batting and saying how tired Strauss looks and the next breath he says how Strauss should go to Bangladesh! For goodness sake make your mind up! Either way Strauss and Anderson should be rested, its the correct decision for many reasons and Miller has writted this as a space filler, pity there is not a more in depth analysis of getting a proper cricket schedule put together as opposed to this mindless conveyor belt of Tests and ODIs. That is the real problem is it not? It is not a "Strauss problem" or an "England problem sending the wrong message", but if there is nothing else to write about why not shoot the messenger!

Posted by stalefresh on (January 19, 2010, 1:20 GMT)

If England get a thrashing in Bangladesh - Strauss should be held accountable and take all the heat. And if England win due to some excellent tactics by Cook and Strauss's replacement scores a lot of runs - then Strauss should be dropped.

It is simple really. He should have skipped the ODI's and went for the test matches - which start 8 weeks from now. If completely understand him missing the ODI's - but if he needs more than 8 weeks of rest and is ready to miss a test match for his country - there is something completely wrong with him and the ECB.

Posted by RodStark on (January 18, 2010, 23:59 GMT)

I do think it sets a bad example. Why just Strauss? He already is rested for all 20-20s. When I first heard he was probably going to be rested for Bangladesh, I assumed a lot of senior regulars would join him, which I thought was a little insulting to the opposition but at least made a kind of sense. it would have given a chance to look at several players (e.g., Wright, Plunkett, Rashid). Now it looks like Craberry will be the only new contender to get a chance. Should have rested Collingwood, Broad, Prior, Swann at least, if they're going to rest anyone.

Posted by redneck on (January 18, 2010, 23:36 GMT)

test cricket is the pinacle of the sport! im of the opinion that you should play your best XI in every test regardless of the opposition! leaving the leading run scorer for 2009 and your bowling attack leader back home isnt taking the bangledesh team seriously! you would never see ponting or smith miss a test for their respective sides these are sides with far better depth than what the poms have to offer! i hope bangledesh embarrass england for their disrespect shown to them!

Posted by gottalovetheraindance on (January 18, 2010, 23:04 GMT)

i actually am not surprised that some of the better players in england's team arnt interested in the Bangladesh tour. i dont have a problem with this.their absence presents a chance for others to step up to the plate & perform say bopara for example! otherwise he doesnt stand much of a chance. strauss & co can always come back vs teams like australia & south africa. this wood av cum in handy 4 West indies last summer. The senior guys like Gayle Shiv & Sarwan & Ramdin wood av been resting & the strike wood not have occurred. we wood still have had a strong enough team to beat Bangladesh

Posted by emmwill on (January 18, 2010, 21:53 GMT)

This article is much ado about nothing. It's like making a mountain out of a molehill. It should have been consigned to the dun heap of meaningless mutterings rather than published on this highly regarded website. Why should Strauss not have rested? Because of team unity. What? Utter rubbish! Such nonsense! Since Strauss became captain he has done a gargantuan job in uniting the team and getting them to perform, sometimes beyond expectations. What more do you want of this man? Remember, as you have written, that the captain does a number of things, sometimes at the same time. Strauss needs a break. This is an excellent opportunity for one. The packed scheduled moving forward is a good enough reason for him to take one. There will be more epic battles to fight!!!!!!

Posted by Mogadon on (January 18, 2010, 21:35 GMT)

Completely disagree with this article. If not now, when? England do too little of this kind of thing, they have a big year coming up and, for once, the selectors and the ECB have shown a degree of foresight in giving Strauss a break now to go with the one he will have during the T20 WC although presumably he will be in pre-season with Middlesex for that. It is also an excellent opportunity for Carberry to get a taste of the top level so he doesn't come in cold if required later in the year. There seems to be too much negativity in this article stemming from the performance in the 4th Test. Before the series any England supporter would have been happy with 1-1.

Posted by frommoonman on (January 18, 2010, 20:44 GMT)

England could be in a serious trouble - Have you seen Shakib bowling against India? He can bowl SIX different variety in an over and most English batsmen will have problems particularly against the arm ball and the quicker one. He will fancy Bangladesh chances against Eng without Strauss and Anderson. Serious contest awaits in Bangladesh for England.

Posted by mittheimp on (January 18, 2010, 18:42 GMT)

The article is right. Strauss is England captain, it's a very well paid job and an honour. He doesnt play 20/20 so will get a rest during the ICC 20/20 world cup anyway. This decision could easily back fire.

Posted by julianwalter on (January 18, 2010, 18:28 GMT)

Is this just another example of trite modern journalism, in which it is deemed fit to start a debate where none is necessary. I am sure that prior to the series it had been pretty much confirmed that Strauss would miss the tour to Bangladesh and be allowed to refocus. He hasn't had a break since way back when and now is a great time for a break, and an opportunity for others to have a go. Enough said really. Andrew you are a better journalist than this, save your pen.

Posted by ABG1 on (January 18, 2010, 18:12 GMT)

Players are well paid and should not be rested at all. A senior company executive would be jobless in a real company if he wanted a 3 month rest every two years.

Posted by NSUrockr on (January 18, 2010, 17:55 GMT)

I dont believe that resting a single player can change a teams ability unless ur talking about the Tendulkar in the late 90s, Lara in post 2000 or Australia without Ponting today. The thing England may be concerned about is giving captaincy to a youngster like Cook....Captain Cook in East India sounds nice ...he he...but can he manage England...will his captaincy reduce Englands normal cricketing ability...training future leaders is a good idea but will it turn into a handicap for Team England? Wouldnt it be better to handover the responsibility 2 more experienced players like Collingwood or Pieterson. On the other hand If England is planning 2 handover ODI captaincy to Cook by 2011 WC then it is an understandable notion.

Posted by strongwood on (January 18, 2010, 17:28 GMT)

The underlying problem is the greed of the ICC. There is far too much cricket being played by every nation in all forms of the game. If you look at Football and Rugby, the majority work on a squad system, due to the amount of games played, so they can try and avoid mental and physical fatigue - However players should want to play everygame, so, as Hooves and StJohn stated, it is up to the management to actually manage and identify when a player needs a break (in this case Strauss) for the good of the team and the individual. The ICC want all these tournaments played and are happy to reap in the money but then don't seem to want to spend it on having a universal referal system for example! Make the most of your break Strauss and then look forward to non-stop cricket from 27th May 2010 until 2nd April 2011 (when you pick up the world cup!!)

Posted by Chase_HQ on (January 18, 2010, 16:29 GMT)

nonsense. They should be resting Collingwood too. There's way too much test cricket nowadays. I'd have preferred to see Monty and Rashid in the side, with Onions and Sidebottom opening the bowling. Bangladesh are a talented group, but don't have the nouse or experience to keep producing over 5 days. It doesn't devalue cricket to play new players - if anything, it increases its value as these players will have some experience to come in when injury inevitably strikes. I hate the idea that the 'media' are putting pressure on Strauss to play this series, when he's done exactly the right thing.

Posted by AdsDad on (January 18, 2010, 16:25 GMT)

Surely the logical solution would be for Strauss to miss the T20 and ODIs. That would have given him a month off now, and another month in April during the T20 tournament.

Posted by Mytom on (January 18, 2010, 16:19 GMT)

I agree with this article entirely. This whole thing about needing a rest is nonsense, the fact he has a break lined up for what 2 weeks at least now and again in April with the 20/20 is ample time for a breather. I can see it now, England fail to win a series in Bangledesh because they don't take it seriously, thus showing that they are unlikely to ever acheive a number one ranking in test cricket in the future. Test cricket is not just about the Ashes, the captain should be the first name on any teamsheet, regardless of who it's against. It's Strauss's job to lead the team and this sets the wrong example to the rest of the squad. "Don't worry, if you're a bit jaded love you have a little rest for a few months and you'll be right as rain". They are professional sportsman, with more spare time than teachers away from their jobs. It's a shambles.

Posted by meenuraghu on (January 18, 2010, 16:06 GMT)

Pietersen should have been appointed captain. Even though he has had a poor series, he has the talent that none have in the England team. ECB did use all his recommendations after ousting him and were very successful. Cook at best is an average player and needs to work on becoming a better batsman. The captain needs to be a strong personality. Flintoff and Pietersen are the only two English players rated by other teams. With Flintoff out of the game, only Pietersen would be be picked by any other team in the world. I think Swann would be a better choice than Cook. I am not English or South African. Its Team India for me.

Posted by kkrisjoy on (January 18, 2010, 16:06 GMT)

I agree with you John - I disagree with this article and I guess Miller is too critical of this decision - hats off to strauss who has done a excellent job in leading england this year - series wins over WI, ashes win over Aus and a drawn test series in SA is not a bad record to boast of and Just cos they had one bad test match doesn't take away any credit from the way england played for the past year - giving cook a captaincy look in for long term is not a bad reasoning at all - its time the articles stop praising england towards sky when they win a test and start pushing england team below rocks when they lose a test.

Posted by Hooves on (January 18, 2010, 16:01 GMT)

Surely Collingwood could do with a fortnight in the Maldvies too? I think he was rested with Anderson for the last two of those horrible one dayers against the Aussies last Summer, two whole odi to recuperate. I'm all in favour of the senior/pivotal members getting alotted time off. We all now the S Hemisphere get this natural buffer in the year so it eves it up surely?? And again, it's not to take anything away from any opposition team i think it's just man management. Pieterson needs to go to Bangladesh and wallop them all over the shop to get his eye in. Strauss, Colly, Anderson and maybe Prior too could easily miss this trip in my opinion.

Posted by WJStryder on (January 18, 2010, 15:55 GMT)

Agreed StJohn. The article is an article for an articles sake. ideal timing to rest him and some other hard working players like Broad, Anderson and Collingwood. Hard luck to the Eng team in SA. Somemonstrously bad luck in the 3rd test with enormous heat taking the edge off Englands bowling effort on the 3rd day and some horrid decisions in the 3rd test. They will learn from it though.

Posted by StJohn on (January 18, 2010, 14:24 GMT)

I disagree entirely with this article: if not now then when is he supposed to have a rest? I'm sure at the end of the day it is a decision that Strauss took, and credit to the ECB for supporting him. In fact, I am surprised that a few more of the seniors aren't having a bit of a rest - e.g. Swann, Broad, Pietersen. It is not to demean Bangladesh, but the reality is that with such a busy and crammed international playing schedule, it makes sense to give players a rest now and again if you possibly can. Have a good break, Straussy - you deserve it!

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Andrew Miller Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007
Tour Results
Bangladesh v England at Dhaka - Mar 20-24, 2010
England won by 9 wickets
Bangladesh v England at Chittagong - Mar 12-16, 2010
England won by 181 runs
Bangladesh A v England XI at Chittagong - Mar 7-9, 2010
Match drawn
Bangladesh v England at Chittagong - Mar 5, 2010
England won by 45 runs
Bangladesh v England at Dhaka - Mar 2, 2010
England won by 2 wickets (with 7 balls remaining)
More results »
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