Angus Fraser: Strength of character entitles Strauss to ultimate accolade
England's new captain, less extrovert than his predecessor, will have the dressing room's respect
Thursday 08 January 2009
There have been many occasions in the past 30 months when Andrew Strauss will have sat in his Ealing home and wondered whether he would ever receive English cricket's ultimate accolade.
Strauss had captained England in 2006 against Pakistan in the absence of Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff, and has been a strong contender for the job on two previous occasions, but each time he was considered for a more permanent role the selectors chose to overlook him.
Both decisions proved to be wrong. Andrew Flintoff was chosen ahead of him for the 2006-07 Ashes tour and it ended in a 5-0 thrashing, and when Michael Vaughan resigned Kevin Pietersen was offered the job.
On each occasion Strauss was deeply upset by the oversight, but he is not the sort of person who airs his frustrations in public. After the turmoil of the past week Strauss and the England and Wales Cricket Board will be hoping it is third time lucky.
Like Pietersen, Strauss was born in South Africa but that is where the comparisons end. His family moved to England when he was a young boy and he is a product of the English system.
The principles and outlook on life of the 31-year-old are in stark contrast to those of the man he replaces. Strauss does not court or enjoy the limelight; he prefers to spend time away from cricket with his wife, Ruth, and his two sons, Sam and Luca.
Strauss is intelligent, thoughtful and he deals with the media exceptionally well. He is analytical about his cricket, in a thorough but not an anal way.
There is little ego about him or his cricket, which is just as well because he would make a fool of himself were he to attempt to play the strokes of his predecessor. The way in which he has conducted himself since making his Test debut at Lord's in 2004, a match in which he scored a hundred, means that he will have the respect of the dressing room.
It was on the fields of Radley College and Durham University that his career started in earnest and Andy Wagner, Radley's cricket master, made his talent apparent to Middlesex.
The desire to choose cricket as a profession did not initially go down well with his parents, who wanted him to enter the world of banking. For many reasons they will be pleased with the option he chose.
Strauss may be polite and quite shy but it would be wrong to consider him a soft touch. The strength of his character should not be underestimated. On the field he proved that in India before Christmas, where, under extreme pressure for his place and without any match practice, he scored a hundred in each innings.
He will not shy away from major decisions, no matter how hard they may be, and he would not worry about omitting Pietersen in the unlikely event that he became a disgruntled nuisance.
But before coming to a conclusion he will have thoroughly thought things through, something Pietersen failed to do when he set about removing Peter Moores. Indeed, it is hard to believe Strauss did not have a say in the decision to replace Moores as England coach.
Pietersen's time as captain was always going to be turbulent and Strauss's presence at the helm will help calmness to return.
The Ashes may be only six months away but Strauss has enough time to forge a healthy working relationship with a new coach and plan a competitive challenge.
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