Andrew Strauss: 'You don't have to be mates, but as a team we stuck together'

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Divisions in the squad, crushing lows, champagne moments... the Middlesex batsman has had a torrid reign as England captain. As his touring squad is announced today, he tells Robin Scott-Elliot why the biggest test is yet to come

Few captains take the helm when the good ship England is sailing serenely through calm waters – otherwise their predecessors would not have been pushed off the plank – but the circumstances in which Andrew Strauss was handed the role at the start of this year were testing in the extreme. Captain Imperturbable tied himself to the wheel of a vessel that had not so much sprung a leak as been the victim of an attempted scuttling. Coach and previous skipper had gone amid a storm of controversy, while on the field the side had been embarrassed by the Stanford fiasco and well beaten in India off the back of a home defeat by South Africa. Even given English cricket's uncanny ability to steer towards the rocks this was a crisis.

Click here or click the image to launch our guide to Stauss' rollercoaster year.

Twelve Tests, 18 one-day internationals and the gamut of emotions on from that dark January day when he was unveiled at Lord's, Strauss, barring the odd selectorial duty, finally has time to draw breath and consider a life-changing nine months. The captaincy, he says, is "all encompassing", a job from which it is next to impossible to switch off. Bat or bowl? Harmison or Onions? Third slip or gully? The questions seem never to end and the next test is always around the corner.

"I'm pretty unflappable," he writes in his new autobiography, Testing Times, and after his first season in charge that has never been in less doubt. He is now an Ashes-winning captain and enjoying his best run of form in his primary role as a batsman, but he has also watched his side bowled out for 51, overseen one of the worst one-day series defeats there has been and admitted to being "humiliated and embarrassed" after another limited-over battering.

"It seems really bizarre," says Strauss when asked to cast his mind back over the peaks, and troughs, that have littered his stewardship. "First of all taking over the captaincy – I didn't think it was a possibility. It wasn't ideal circumstances at all but there have been some incredible personal highlights. I've been in good form with the bat – it's probably been my best year for England. And on top of that winning the Ashes is incredible to have experienced as England captain."

The beginning was chaotic. "The Pietersen and Moores issue was public and not particularly pleasant," recalls Strauss of the circumstances surrounding his dramatic elevation to a role he had previously occupied as a caretaker for the injured Michael Vaughan in 2006. "We didn't know what was to come. No one was sure whether the coach was going to stay or the captain was going to stay, whether there might be mediation. It was only when it all came to a head that I realised I might be taking over. I had no doubts, but I had to think about it. I had to speak to various people, including Kevin Pietersen, and had to be clear with my family as to what it entailed. It wasn't something I wanted to say yes to on the spur of the moment, I had to think about it carefully."

He had been a contender for the position prior to the previous Ashes series, the disastrous trip Down Under three years ago, but Andrew Flintoff was preferred. "In some ways maybe it was a blessing in disguise," says Strauss. "I was keen to do the job at that stage but Flintoff was the next guy in line and he deserved to have his go. I certainly felt taking over this time it was the right time for me to do it – that gives you a bit more confidence as captain as well... this is your opportunity and the players are behind you. That was an important part of it."

All talk of a divided dressing room that accompanied Pietersen's attempted coup against Peter Moores has disappeared. That may be down to Strauss's leadership or the simple unifying force of success, but his team-mates cannot but have been impressed by their captain's contribution with the bat. Against Australia he scored nearly twice as many runs as Matt Prior, England's second highest scorer in the Ashes, and that off the back of three hundreds in the Caribbean, albeit it in a losing cause. His form in the one-day game, a format which he returned to after a gap of two years, produced one century and four fifties as, in the absence of Pietersen, he rapidly became England's key wicket.

It is as a leader, though, that he is now defined. "I've thoroughly enjoyed it actually," he says. "There have been some real testing times. Look at the Headingley Test [when England lost in two-and-a-half days] – that was a time when things could have fallen apart quite nastily. But we stuck together. You don't have to be best mates, but you have to be a tight unit and one of the things I'm most optimistic about is the group of players we've got.

"The things that are strongest in my memory are the win at Lord's, which started the process of us believing we could win the series. We'd just hung on at Cardiff and then to win at Lord's after such a long time gave us a huge amount of confidence. The really vivid moment in my mind is that spell of Stuart Broad's at The Oval, which finally swung the pendulum our way. The buzz on the field that day... we started thinking, 'hold on, this is meant to be'."

Strauss has a short break before England return to South Africa next month to face the world's No 1 ranked side, what he dutifully states will be his biggest test as captain. But, as ever in English cricket, it is impossible to prevent thoughts drifting towards the next Ashes, in Australia a year from now. "How we are going to retain them out there is a big question," said Strauss. Answer that one and he will have to answer no more.

'Testing Times' by Andrew Strauss is published by Hodder & Stoughton, price £19.99

Leading from the front: Strauss in numbers

Andrew John Strauss

Born: 2 March 1977, Johannesburg

County: Middlesex (1998-present)

England career

Test debut v New Zealand (Lord's), May 2004

Matches: 67 Innings 23 Runs 5,266 Highest Score 177 v NZ, March 2008 Average 44.62 100s 18 50s 17

Record as Test captain: Matches 12 Won 4 Lost 2 Drawn 6

One-day debut v Sri Lanka (Dambulla), November 2003 Matches 96 Innings 95 Runs 2,814 High score 152 v Bangladesh, June 2005 Average 32.34 100s 3 50s 18

From despair to here: Captain's mixed year

7 January Appointed captain of England's Test and one-day sides.

Feb-Mar England bowled out for 51 by West Indies in Strauss' first Test as captain. Loses series 1-0.

May Records 2-0 series victory over West Indies on home soil.

16 July Makes 161 as England win Lord's Test against Australia for first time in 75 years.

9 August Loses fourth Ashes Test at Headingley in under three days.

23 August Reclaims Ashes after victory in fifth Test at The Oval.

September Thrashed 6-1 in home ODI series by Australia.

2 October Australia beat England in ICC Champions Trophy semi-final.

Sport
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
football
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home