Andrew Strauss’s captaincy style

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Ex-England captain, Andrew Strauss, back when he used to play cricket

Andrew Strauss retires from cricket. If Nasser Hussain was ‘do as I say’ and Michael Vaughan was ‘relax and play how you want’ then Strauss was ‘for Christ’s sake, don’t do anything silly’.

He was a bit establishment for our tastes and his interviews were even more bland and predictable than his on-field decisions, but people involved with the England team rate him highly and they know him better than we do. There’s also the simple fact that England won a great many matches under his captaincy and that is, after all, the entire point.

The Ashes victory in Australia was clearly the high point, but he also ensured England were all but unbeatable at home during his tenure. That changed this summer and this is significant. It’s hard to avoid the sense that everything’s kind of falling to pieces at the minute. Many have pointed out that few captains leave on a high, but there have been smoother handovers. Cook finds himself with a great deal of work to do.

In many ways this is a further test of Strauss’s captaincy. The on-field stuff’s finished, but the long-term planning for which he is so well-regarded will continue to come under scrutiny. The succession-planning has already given England their next captain, so that bit’s better than usual. However, set against that is the fact that the team are losing and have lost a major player because they couldn’t find a way of getting on with him.

This isn’t to nitpick. It’s just to point out that long-term planning isn’t a matter of aiming for an Ashes series and clapping yourself on the back if you win it. If you’re an England captain, it also involves ensuring the house isn’t a complete shit-tip for the next tenant.

We’re disappointed at the nature of his exit, because the drama and goodwill that ensues masks failings and means he doesn’t have to answer for the side’s deterioration over the last year. However, overall, we are very happy with Andrew Strauss’s performance as England captain. We’ll give him a B+


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  1. “However, set against that is the fact that the team are losing and have lost a major player because they couldn’t find a way of getting on with him.”

    I still think it’s a case of England losing a major player because he can’t find a way of getting on with them.

    1. I totally disagree. A player does not have to create his own training program, nor does he schedule his nets practice and choose when and where he plays for his county etc. And England have a manager for everything, batting, bowling (spin and pace), fitness, fielding, two managing directors, team manager, team director, strength and conditioning coach, team psychologist, and a captain, and none of them did nothing to prevent the whole KP affair before it even started snowballing? Not to mention the leaks, the cliques, Cook and Strauss not doing anything.

      In a modern business, it is the managers role to make sure his employees do the best they can, and to guarantee them the work environment so they could maximise their potential. Apparently this isn’t how you do things in team England. Saying that KP “couldn’t find a way to get on with them” is blame assignment, not an excuse.

    2. You don’t reckon England management gave KP everything he needed to succeed? People do get sacked from “modern businesses” as well you know -especially if they undermine their direct managers, team leaders, company directors, and then spend much of their time trying to organise time off while they’re still being paid so that they can fuck off to work for a rival outfit. What a heap of shit mate.

    3. Hence our use of the word ‘equally’.

      We don’t ‘blame’ Pietersen, but he does have to accept half the responsibility for every relationship he has. Same for all those management figures. No-one can accept full responsibility, but everyone is culpable.

    4. Memo to: ECB

      Subject: The IPL

      Text: It exists. Players can make a huge amount of money in it. Stopping them from doing this will cause resentment and weird behaviour as night follows day. Your chairman Mr Clarke gave himself all the opportunities he needed to become a multi-millionaire. Extending the same opportunities to the players is the bare minimum. Now, work around it.

    5. “You don’t reckon England management gave KP everything he needed to succeed?”

      Hardly. Have any cliques against him been dealt with? Have the leaks of ECB/Team England members been stopped? Have the ECB walked the (half) mile towards KP after he publicly apologised instead of insisting on punishing the player for those text messages he sent?

      Just a reminder, there was no “KP affair” until his demands to play only Twenty20 and Tests were leaked, forcing him to retire from One Day cricket, and then his request for an IPL window. Meanwhile it was business as usual all around him.

      How was KP undermining anything? was he not playing the best cricket of his life? was he creating joke Twitter accounts or leaking information? If I come to my boss and ask him for more holiday, or flexible hours, and he goes around my back and tell people that I’m a bad employee for wanting to improve my terms, is that my fault? Since when does sending personal text messages “undermining your managers and leaders”?

      The more this story evolved, the more it became clear that one thing all the managers and directors and coaches can’t do is manage, direct and coach their players. So they got rid of the saffer, who nobody liked, maybe because he was an outsider, maybe because he “just worked there”, or maybe because he, like the other South Africans, was just better than them and they really didn’t like it.

    6. Say I work for BP. I send texts to Shell executives saying my direct boss at BP is a cock and that his trading strategy is a load of crap – in fact, I let them know that he always sells when crude goes over a certain price. They use this information to their own ends. Question: Do I have a job with BP once this information comes to light? Even if I’m their star trader? Answer: I think you know the answer. I may have a job to go to with Shell, but that was never your point.

    7. Say you get fired. Say BP fails to make any money for the next three years, whereas up till then they’d been coining it in from your work.

      Say I was a shareholder. Should I be happy with the way this has been handled? What actually matters in this scenario?

    8. Only we haven’t been coining it in – the star trader is sporadically good but fails as often as he succeeds. Our rivals have overtaken us. This year, even with the star trader, our performance has been poor. Shareholders want action. If there’s one thing they cannot abide when times are tough, it’s people giving info to their commercial rivals, even if they have been good in the past. So they sack his sorry arse. But things eventually get better. The star trader comes back. All is rosy. The team regains its vim and winning ways. The star trader writes a book about his travails after some time. It makes him richer than Giles Clark. Everyone is happy.

    9. Okay, so are we saying that Giles Clarke was responsible for the BP oil spill? Because that’s the kind of thing we can get behind.

  2. I’m more interested in his political style. Rumours are gathering that he will be the Tory candidate for Corby to replace Louise Mensch.

    Now, I’ve been unfortunate enough to go to Corby, and I can’t see him fitting in too well, unless he’s been practicing his Glaswegian accent, so I’m not sure I put much credence in this.

  3. B+? Harsh. Remember where we were when he took over – 51 all out, KP and Moores gone, last Ashes lost 5-0, Flintoff a boozy, injured wreck…
    And he took us to Ashes victories home and away, whitewashing India, number one in the world in Tests and ODIs, Twenty20 World Cup winners (OK not involving Strauss but his ethos).
    You’re right that captains should be judged on how they leave a side, and Strauss has left this one in pretty good shape. One series defeat against the best side in the world doesn’t change that.

    1. What about the series defeat against the fourth-best side in the world or the series draw with the sixth-best side in the world.

  4. The most exciting thing about the new era will be how quickly Alastair Cook loses his hair.

  5. Does anyone else get the impression that there’s a spot on Graeme Smnith wall for Alastair Cook’s head come Summer 2016?

    1. “Bambi” looks more like a fox to me.

      Is Ccok a deliberate nickname, wolf, or a “cook up” on the typing front? If the former, you clearly know how to move in quick for the kill yourself.

  6. When he took over, the team wasn’t just a complete shit-tip, it had been torn apart by a faeces bomb. He was exactly what the team needed then. It is a bit harsh to cricise him now for not being something different.

    1. Early successes don’t negate subsequent failings. Rebuilding after a catastrophe was admirable, but it doesn’t provide a free pass. We’re not being harsh; we’re just honestly appraising his captaincy career.

      Solid start, exceptional high points in the middle and then a bit of a crumbly end.

    2. That’s the perfect recipe, KC.

      For a rhubarb crumble, that is. Not necessarily for the captaincy of England, but to be honest I’ve become too distracted by deserts to think about that.

  7. A little harsh, KC, given Strauss’s exceptional win record as captain. A- for me.

    Ultra harsh, Bert, both on this thread and others. Selective cut off “three years” just after an excellent 2009 Ashes. In any case, in those last three years Strauss had very respectable returns in big series such as Ashes 2010/11 and India 2011, as well as good stats against some lesser attacks.

    It’s a long time since England has had steady 40+ averaging openers – I suspect we might find it quite tricky to keep finding them, although I look forward to seeing young Hales or young Root have a go.

    It is also a long time since an England captain scored runs for fun as captain – indeed Strauss’s lack of “form dip” when first appointed helped him and the team to steady the wonky ship. I hope Captain Cook can avoid that form dip.

    Perhaps it was inevitable that Captain Cook would lead the assault on New Zealand in early 2013 – headline lovers you know where you read it first.

    1. We really don’t think we’re being harsh. We’re just acknowledging the lows as well. Many writers aren’t bothering.

      For most of us, winning the last Ashes series is far more significant than the fact that England have lost six Tests this year. However, the latter still happened.

    2. I wasn’t trying to be selective – it’s not an average that we’re working out. Three years is too long when dicussing form in any case. It should be less, certainly not more.

      My view overall is that the team that won the Ashes was the right one. It included Strauss and his batting form, and Pietersen and his ego. That allowed Strauss to do what he was good at (stability, sense, calmness) and KP to do what he was good at (batting), while offsetting what they weren’t good at (reverse the brackets). As we said at the time, without KP in the team, Strauss suddenly had to be a batsman. He resigned because he knew he wasn’t up to that side of the job.

      As others have pointed out today, it all went wrong when the ECB started leaking info on discussions with KP. His paranoia fed by actual events, KP went wobbly. As a result, England lost two important players. Shame on them.

  8. Bloody hell. The headline writers have only just stopped with ‘Strauss waltzes to a century’ (mainly because he hasn’t been getting any).

    The next few years are going to be CAPTAIN COOK this and CAPTAIN COOK that.

    It’s the sub-editor’s equivalent of shouting “Come on Tim!” at Andy Murray.

    1. I went to a restaurant in Sarajevo which did a seafood platter called the “captain cock”. We laughed and i took a photo, which I seem to have lost.

  9. Strauss deserves a higher grade than that. The highs of the Ashes victories and the No. 1 ranking always masked England’s weaknesses in the subcontinent. Its a little too much too expect him to teach his batsmen how to play spin.

    1. Nasser Hussain’s England won in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Flintoff’s England drew in India.

      Strauss’s England could – and arguably should – have done better.

  10. I would rate Strauss as a decent batsman and an reasonable captain who found a system that worked and stuck to it regardless. Probably slightly better than Vaughan as a batsman and slightly lesser of a captain. The only thing I would add is that he seemed like a thoroughly decent bloke who was pretty much unflustered by anything. When there were fires lighting up all over the place (KP-Moores, match fixing) he was the perfect man to have at the helm. In peace time, maybe England need a man to shift them on to the next level a bit.

    Also worth noting that his batting went to shit pretty much as soon as he jacked in ODI cricket.

    1. Interesting comparison with Vaughan there, Steve.

      Scyld Berry, not my favourite journo, goes into the comparative captaincy matter with great gusto:

      Len Hutton was before my time of course, but it makes me realise that I have been incredibly lucky to witness live and (briefly) meet several top notch England captains.

  11. I have a bit of a problem with this “too establishment” label. What on earth does “establishment” mean? It seems to go along with “the authorities” , “bankers” ‘and ” the illuminati” as a lazy (sorry KC) trope for an ill defined evil. So Strauss went to a posh school and talks nicely. Not many of the last half dozen England captains or coaches have, so how well established can it be?

    1. The England captain isn’t the only one with power in English cricket. Many positions are not filled meritocratically and those that fill them are generally from the ‘right’ school. That’s a generalisation to some degree, but it’s not an entirely misleading one.

      We take your point, but we think that English cricket’s establishment is reasonably well defined.

      It’s also worth noting that we said ‘for our tastes’ just after that. We freely admit there’s an element of personal prejudice in that statement.

    2. Agreed that there are positions in cricket that are filled by old school ties, but recent evidence is that England Captain (and coach) aren’t among them. Strauss fits that stereotype, but that doesn’t disqualify him from the position any more than Vaughn’s or indeed KP’s lack of received pronunciation did. For it to have been non-meritocratic, there has to have been one of his peers who would probably have done better than your B+. I’m not sure that there was.

    3. Is Captain Cook a bit establishment for your tastes, KC?

      I think Cook is the choice on merit right now, but he surely merits an “establishment” tag in similar ways to Strauss.

    4. The Smudge, he got the job on merit, but does that mean he can’t still be part of the establishment? That’s the way we see him.

      Ged, yes, Cook is a bit too establishment for our tastes, but we like people to stick to their plans. We didn’t like it when it became apparent that he was next in line, but having invested in him, let’s give him a go. England think he’s the right man for the job. We’ll be entirely happy if he proves it.

    5. He could also be a member of the Freemasons, Church of the Latter Day Saints, Greenpeace, Gateshead Library and the Nik Kershaw Fan Club, but if they are not germane to his position as England Captain, so what?

    6. You seem to be misunderstanding the whole point of having prejudices.

      It’s not germane. We’re just saying that we don’t like it, same as we wouldn’t like it if he were a Freemason.

    7. You’re prejudiced against Germans now? They’re lovely people. A bit warmonger-y, but generally very nice.

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