Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ashes whitewash fear prompts England selectors to rest captain Andrew Strauss

Ashes whitewash fear prompts England selectors to rest captain Andrew Strauss for Bangladesh

By Derek Pringle 

The grim spectre of the Ashes whitewash three years ago is what has driven England's selectors to rest Andrew Strauss.

At home, Bangladesh will not be the walkover many assume, but England will see that as a small and justifiable risk to take if Strauss and his team defeat the Australians in 12 months' time.
The primacy of the Ashes is the motivating factor here. Last time England defended them in Australia, Andrew Flintoff was made captain ahead of Strauss with dreadful consequences.

Floored by the 5-0 drubbing, the England and Wales Cricket Board set up an inquiry, the Schofield report, whose main finding was that England's cricketers played too much cricket.
To remedy this, Schofield advocated fewer games: a suggestion ignored by the ECB, who have brazenly committed their players to more cricket.
To minimise burnout in their ever-expanding universe they need to rotate players, a system that appears to have begun with Strauss and James Anderson, who is being rested from the Bangladesh tour to cure a chronic knee problem.
The England captaincy is a gilded appointment and, predictably, some of those who have held its office have been critical of Strauss for abandoning his team. Michael Atherton, who captained England in 54 Tests, said that fatigue and dips in form come with the territory while Nasser Hussain said the job is meant to consume you 24/7, 12 months a year.
Players have always missed tours in the past but the last captain to do so was Ray Illingworth, who absented himself from the 1972/3 tour of India and Pakistan.
At the age of 40, Illingworth felt he needed a rest and to spend time with his two daughters, something Strauss, with two young children, will also feel under pressure to do. The selectors didn't hold it against Illingworth and he was brought back in as captain the next summer, beating New Zealand but losing to the West Indies.
So far so similar except that Illingworth reckoned his tour fee was less than he earned from his winter job. Strauss's central contract will ensure he will be handsomely remunerated while resting, yet more grist to the mills of those who think modern players are mollycoddled.
Great honour or not, the demands on captains such as Strauss are far greater than in Illy's day. Andy Flower, the team director, and Geoff Miller, the national selector, recognise the dangers of overload, which makes them far more enlightened than the selectors 40 years ago.
Back then there wasn't a tour of equivalent status to Bangladesh, which makes it the perfect opportunity to rest your most important player.
Indeed, you could spin it further by suggesting that Alastair Cook's appointment as captain for Bangladesh, far from preparing him to take over from Strauss, is actually helping to prolong his time at the helm.
Most recent captains reckon there is a four-year shelf life to the job. England's goal of being the No1 team in the world will take at least that long.
If the selectors see Strauss as the man to take them there, and to beat Australia away for the first time in 24 years, resting him now could prove a masterstroke.


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