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There were no tears and no regrets. Just like during his career Andrew Strauss dealt in facts and reality when deciding to call it a day
August 29, 2012
With memorable understatement and a conspicuous lack of fuss, Andrew Strauss resigned the England captaincy and retired from professional cricket. A lifetime of ambition and achievement, a good living well made - gone, finito. "You just know" he said, and you do. It washes over you. The sheer pleasure of release, an orgasm of self-appraisal and realisation. Then suddenly, the bearable lightness of being.
Typical Strauss. No glorification. No quivering lip, not even the blink of an eye. Just the facts. There was no emotion. "I know where I'm at" he said. Best to go when they ask why, not when. Apparently the energy levels to get his batting sorted are somewhere in the ether, somewhere lost in time. He is 35 years old. It is easy to forget that he started quite late.
Remember the Lord's hundred on debut and the second-innings 83 before Nasser Hussain ran him out? Only 2004. Remember the white gauze and plaster on his ear lobe while celebrating another hundred against Australia at Old Trafford in 2005? Remember the thrilling, horizontal left-handed catch at Trent Bridge the same summer? The counter-attack in Brisbane? The Ashes secured in Melbourne? The lifting of the urn in Sydney? The World Cup hundred for a tie in Bangalore? All Strauss. All memories now.
Alastair Cook sat alongside him in the boardroom at the offices of the ECB. Unusual that, the handing of the baton so immediate and public. Let Strauss have his moment you thought before realising he was not looking for "a moment". He was here because it was the next thing on the road. Like Cook if you think about, the next thing on a road much travelled by cricket's caravan.
These South Africans are consistent. Hussain, Michael Vaughan and now "Straussy", as "Cookie" kept calling him. All three, victims of the South Africans and a four-year cycle that ends with The Death of a Captain. Graeme Smith has seen them all off. No wonder they call him Biff.
So why did this intelligent and loyal man chose to move on? Not, he insists, because of Kevin. There may be plenty about Kev that occupies the Strauss mind but not enough to obscure his judgement. Quite likely, the Pietersen issue made him consider staying in the job a little longer - after all, it is unfinished business and there is nothing else about Strauss that is unfinished. He is a man of symmetry: begin and end at Lord's; play a hundred Tests, captain 50 of them. Twenty-one hundreds, just like Pietersen; 27 fifties, just like Pietersen.
Even the recession of his hair is divided equally from the forehead's remaining centre of growth. Oh no, KP was good reason to crack on - another challenge, as sports folk like to say. But he didn't fall for it. ("You just know.") So Kevin is Alastair's problem now. Big problem. "Look, there is a process to go through" said Alastair, when asked if he wanted Pietersen in his team. By which he meant, we need a punch up and from it there is the chance of a kiss and make-up. He better hope it comes off. The cupboard inherited is not so flush with batsmen. Stop for a minute and think about replacements for Strauss at the top of the order. There you go, it's not obvious.
Strauss retired because he had enough. Lucky him, no regrets. His batting has slipped from a former height; his captaincy has lost something of the midas touch; his team have lost six in 11 Tests; three key bowlers have lost a bit of zip; catches are being dropped; the kids at home are growing up fast; and so on.
Vaughan had a bad knee injury to decipher. Hussain had a lot of defeats to ponder. Strauss, an exceptional cricketer marginally on the wrong side of the hill, just wanted out. Unconditional, uncomplicated out. He had been thinking about it all summer. He didn't like speculation about his form and therefore his place in the team - remember the witch-hunt last spring, yes, only last spring.
"I went down where the vultures feed / I would've got deeper but there wasn't any need / I heard the tongues of angels and the tongues of men / And it wasn't any difference to me"
Bob Dylan from his song "Dignity". That's Strauss for you, his own man: a man of dignity. Honest, loyal and as good a captain of England as he could have been, one of the best. His team that became No. 1 in the world was also one of England's best. He made more than 7000 runs and held more catches in an England shirt than any man. When asked how he would like to be remembered, he said he hated the question, but added, "Remember me for who I am."
He also said that he had gone at a good time, that he was proud of the performance at Lord's when the team fought as one and, in the face of a major disruption, made South Africa go the distance. Typical of Strauss to see the upside. "What next?" said the long established cricket correspondent of the Sun newspaper. "Hmmm. I think I'll have crack at being cricket correspondent of the Sun." And that was pretty much that, upon which the press applauded him - a most surprising occurrence on a most surprising day. Good night captain, and good luck.
Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in the UKFeeds: Mark Nicholas
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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