England cricket August 31, 2012

Strauss' over-achievement

When England travelled to New Zealand for the 2007/08 tour, I didn't realise that Andrew Strauss was on his way out

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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