So, two and a half years after they surely should have given him the job, Andrew Strauss steps up into the hot seat, one upon which we hope he will park his backside fo the whistelestop tour to the Caribbean and through the Ashes in the summer.
Of course, who will take on the duties in one-day internationals, and the Twenty20 world championship has still, as I write, to be worked out (although in the fast-moving arena of the England captaincy, things can change in the time it takes to put the finishing touches to this article). But in theory – and especially bearing in mind the about-turns that have taken place in recent days – there is no reason why the Middlesex opener should not be restored to the one-day team, thus ensuring the continuation of the one-captain-for-all-seasons strategy that Geoff Miller is understood to have favoured, and which Paul Collingwood’s resignation from the limited-overs helm made possible when Pietersen was appointed. A straight swop in the order for Ian Bell should do the trick.
That decision to hand the captaincy for the 2006-7 Ashes series to Andrew Flintoff, one which many England supporters greeted with only moderate enthusiasm despite Freddie’s iconic status, has proved to have long-term ramifications. That Australia team, fired up by righteous indignation of defeat to the old enemy in 2005, may have been one of the finest of modern times and may indeed gone on to complete the 5-0 whitewash that England in the event suffered, but who can be sure? Some may challenge the viewpoint, but Flintoff, unburdened by the cares of leadership, may have found better form himself, especially with the bat ,and while Strauss had a wretched Test series himself, would it have really been that much more grisly had he been entrusted with the captaincy?
We know that batsmen, and indeed bowlers, can not pick and choose their patches of rotten form, but it is arguable that that the responsibility would have tempered some of Strauss’ shot selection, allowing him to lay a better foundation for those to come.
Those who did not witness the early stages of that tour may not be aware that Strauss was in fabulous form at the outset, some sumptuous strokeplay in the tour opener at the Manuka Oval in Canberra – a one-dayer, by the way – and in the initial first-class game against New South Wales (a potential hundred in the first innings was only prevented by a stunning return catch by Stuart Clark) promising great things ahead. And those innings – of 67 and 50 – came at more or less a run a ball.
It must also remembered that he lost his partner in opening crime, Marcus Trescothick, soon on a plane back to Blighty, prematurely, which may, as some have suggested, made him more inclined to a belief that he was the man to take the attack to the bowlers, Trescothick-style. Several imprudent strokes – and a consequent loss of favour among the gods of cricket – later, his place in the side was being questioned.
Now, though, he has the chance to finish what he started against Pakistan at Lord’s in July 2006 after Flintoff had limped out of the season following the Sri Lanka series. Let’s hope he can unite England’s warring cliques and if he does, we might conclude in September that two and half years was wasted.