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February 5, 2011
As England's visit to Australia passes the 100-day mark with the final match of the trip looming in Perth carrying a distinct end-of-term feeling, Andrew Strauss has called for future tours to be switched around so that the one-dayers precede the Test matches.
The series has been comfortably wrapped up by the home side with both teams stripped of key players through injury and rotation and Strauss believes that ODIs can act as the perfect curtain-raiser to a full tour rather than being tagged on at the end. This is particularly relevant to contests such as the Ashes where it's the five-day game that carries most meaning.
"Wherever possible I think that's a better way of doing it," he said. "I've been involved in a lot of tours where the one-dayers at the end have been hard work. Not just for us but the other teams as well. In some ways it's quite a good way to whet the appetite for the five-day matches coming up. That's something the administrators can look at and I think it makes for better cricket personally."
Strauss drew the comparison with the 2005 Ashes where the two teams went head-to-head in a month of one-day action before the Tests, which helped build the anticipation ahead of what became one of the great series. The final of the NatWest Series was tied at Lord's before a closely contested three-match series was won by Australia.
It allowed the mini-battles and themes to build up, such as the confrontation between Simon Jones and Matthew Hayden at Edgbaston and the decline of Jason Gillespie, which were then taken forward into the longer format.
Along with the structure of the tour the length of the one-day series has also drawn criticism. Mitchell Johnson said he felt seven matches were too many and it's a view long held by Strauss. "I personally think that five one-dayers is enough, but there are a lot of other considerations to take into account," he said. "The administrators have to think about the future of the game and funding the various initiatives that they have. It's always a difficult one to answer. The crowds have been pretty healthy and apparently it will be a full house here tomorrow so that's a good thing."
However, this one-day series has been played in the lead-up to a World Cup which should have given it extra context with both teams looking to fine-tune their planning. But the injuries have meant frequent changes and disrupted preparation although Australia have responded better to the set-backs than the tourists.
On Friday, England team director Andy Flower said he wanted coaches to have more say in tour itineraries to try and prevent the overload of fixtures that threatens player burnout, but while Strauss would also like input he doesn't think it will happen with the structures put in place many years ahead.
"Ideally, yes, but these schedules are in place for four or five years into the future. I think we've come to the realisation that we're not going to have a lot of say on it. That's the reality. All we can do is manage our resources as well as possible and that's where some sort of rotation system, resting players now and again is vitally important. And how you do it, how you manage it, if you do it effectively it's an opportunity for you to get ahead of the opposition sides. Schedules are what they are and they will continue to be so."
Despite the injuries, tiredness and just a brief three-day stop back home before leaving for Dhaka next week, Strauss is determined to finish the tour on a high, even though it will always be remembered as a success regardless of this result.
"We are very determined to do so," he said. "It's the last game, it's the last opportunity we have to give a good account of ourselves. I think the guys are very excited about it; finishing the tour on a high and then heading for a few days off before the World Cup feeling good about our prospects. That's a very exciting time in any cricketer's life and it's just around the corner now so the juices are starting to flow on that and they will do over the coming days even more so."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala