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August 31, 2012

England cricket

Strauss' over-achievement

Jarrod Kimber
Andrew Strauss cuts on his way to 177, New Zealand v England, 3rd Test, Napier, 3rd day, March 24, 2008
Andrew Strauss' 177 in Napier saved his career. A year later he was England captain  © Getty Images
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When England travelled to New Zealand for the 2007/08 tour, I didn't realise that Andrew Strauss was on his way out. But then, I'd never thought of him much at all. That's not to say I ever thought he was rubbish, he just wasn't someone who I thought of much. I remember he had a good start, was around during some Ashes, was on the Shane Warne highlight reel as one of his landmark wickets and liked to smack the ball through point. But for someone who had been around for so long, he was almost anonymous to me.

I think I would have picked out his image in a photo array, but it would have been touch and go.

The first time I realised there was something more to Strauss was that he moved to Hamilton to prepare for a Test series against New Zealand. It wasn't that he moved to a place to prepare for a series, professional athletes do that now, but that he did it for New Zealand. Not a five-Test series, or a series against the heavy hitters of world cricket, he did it for the team that series that some players treat more as a holiday than a proper series.

Strauss treated it more seriously than some of his team mates had treated the 2006/07 Ashes. It was from then on I started taking more notice of Strauss.

When KP was captain (it really happened, google it) and the India tour got disrupted by the Mumbai terror attacks it was Strauss who showed the courage and conviction of a leader. He stated publicly that England should go back to India, and eventually the team agreed with him. It was the right decision.

In Chennai, Strauss was a man on a mission, scoring hundreds in both innings. That's some batting, and to top it off, it was in a losing cause. He'd dragged his team to India, then he'd put them on his back, and it wasn't even his team yet.

Then it was, and Strauss turned a team of decent players into a professional unit that beat teams up with precision and tedium. They, briefly, took over the world. There is no doubt that without Strauss this team would have continued to be an inconsistent spoiler team.

That's not to say Strauss was perfect. At several times during his career he was short of runs, his captaincy was slightly more conservative than his friend David Cameron's front bench, and there were times it felt like he was Andy Flower's puppet (which is not how he got his nickname muppet).

But for a late blooming Test player to play 100 Tests, 50 as captain, win three Ashes (two in charge), beat the No.1 team 4-0 and claim the No.1 title all with a batting average of barely 40. There is something special to that. It's an overachievement on a massive scale. Strauss found a way to drag the absolute best out of himself. And then he used the lessons he'd learnt about professionalism on his own and made a whole team better.

In doing all Strauss went from a fairly forgettable opening batsman to a captain who'll be mentioned for years to come. Strauss only touched greatness a couple of times, but who expected him to even touch it once? Especially with an average of 40.91.

Strauss was definitely much more than a forgettable opener with a few decent shots through point. I'm just glad we got to see it.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

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Keywords: Captaincy, Tributes

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by JT on (September 3, 2012, 21:29 GMT)

Surprised to see that Strauss only averaged 40 - then again figures don't always tell the whole story, do they? As an Aussie fan, I admired Strauss for his early career dependability with the bat and his late career ability as a man manager. Who would want to face the prospect of putting up with KP'S daily circus - particularly under the cruel spotlight of the English press. Australia's job of winning the next Ashes series has become a little easier

Posted by Andrew on (September 3, 2012, 8:51 GMT)

Strauss actually averaged about the same throughout his whole career. 40.7 as captain and 41 as non captain. Apart from his first year he averaged over 50 once in a calendar year, so seems like a pretty accurate article to me. He could definitely lead a side whilst his batting was good without being great and personally I think he was an excellent slip catcher as well, but in his era he is nowhere near the top 10 batsman for mine.

Posted by Kaustubh on (September 1, 2012, 4:59 GMT)

You've hit the nail on its head, Jrod. Strauss was never much of a player with a natural flair but still managed to have a remarkable career. But them, didn't Steve Waugh either? (although he managed it for almost 2 decades). Will always remember Strauss for his Ashes exploits, esp 2005: fighting hundreds @ Old Trafford & Oval, battles with Brett Lee & Shane Warne, his airborne catch (Gilchrist) @ Trent Bridge.

Posted by Sanjay Das on (August 31, 2012, 17:28 GMT)

Condescending words could have waited, could they not? I guess the goal of any soul should be over-achievement, does not it?

Posted by Tom on (August 31, 2012, 17:18 GMT)

At his best, Strauss was an awesome batsman, and his average has been declining for ages - for much of his career it was near 50. But his career's been characterised by selflessness, and being overshadowed by bigger egoes. In 2005 he was the only England player to score two hundreds against Australia, but it was KP and Flintoff who made the headlines. Later in 2005, Trescothick's departure meant he had to remodel his style to accommodate Cook, who didn't complement his play so well. Stripping him of the captaincy in 2006 robbed him of confidence. Then, having rebuilt his game again for 2009, when he was one of the best batsman in the world, he was given the job of rebuilding the rest of the team as well. It's only in the last eighteen months that he's lost his knack of chipping in with big innings when the team needed it.

But he was always a great captain, and that's how he'll deservedly be remembered.

Posted by Alex on (August 31, 2012, 17:15 GMT)

Only an average of 40.91! Hoho, how times have changed. This stat is duly trotted out to assert that the chap was merely an average player, yet in times gone by quite a few England captains would have snapped at such a stat. Look at the number of hundreds, 21, rather than the average. His average slipped quite a bit in the last few years, don't forget. For most of his career it was higher - at the start he quickly became our best batsman and you'd say he ought to have finished in the mid-40s, round about the Thorpe/Gower mark. When on song he was unflappable and stylish as a batsman, especially through the off-side.

Posted by Mark B on (August 31, 2012, 13:59 GMT)

Ah... bit of a dog's breakfast this article. Yes Strauss should be hailed and appreciated for being a great leader. Yes his late form wained and ultimately was unsustainable... but! Strauss has been a bedrock at the top of the order through the majority of his career and his substantial batting in the first half of his career was crucial to getting England into the upper echelons and off the bottom. With Cook they have formed an opening combo that took England to the top regardless of anything else. All this moaning that his batting was pretty crap well I'm sorry. The stats say something else. Do yr homework Jarrod.

Posted by Shankar on (August 31, 2012, 12:07 GMT)

agreed..he maintained a low profile. I think that helped English cricket in general, what with your crazy media

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