Mark Butcher: It's not Strauss who should worry, but England's top order as a whole
'We play best when we're positive' is an excuse
Sunday 12 March 2006
When, like Alastair Cook did last weekend, his fellow left-handed opener Andrew Strauss scored a century on his Test debut - on his home ground at Lord's in 2004 - it must have seemed like Lou Reed's "Perfect Day".
But he hasn't scored a fifty in his last eight innings and now it's becoming more like Daniel Powter's "Bad Day". He shouldn't worry. As the lyrics go: "You had a bad day/The camera don't lie/You're coming back down and you really don't mind."
I am sure he is remaining upbeat. It's important not to get a downer on yourself. It doesn't go through the back of your mind that you are due a bad run, but you know it's inevitable at some stage.
There are always going to be dips in form. Strauss is probably feeling he isn't doing too much different, but he is not getting the breaks he once did. The key is, when you are in form, you should cash in and score heavily.
He is a level-headed guy and he never got massively big-headed when he was scoring for fun. He knew that he had not got the game completely sussed.
It's more of a concern for the team. A major part of their success has come from the starts Strauss has made with Marcus Trescothick. Now the middle order are more exposed.
With Treser back home for the series, without knowing it Strauss might be spending more of his energy looking after Cook. It could be a small factor, but he knows he doesn't have to babysit Trescothick.
Yet his poor run began in Pakistan before Christmas, when Trescothick was with him. From the outside perception, the immediate conclusion might be that the birth of Strauss's first baby, which caused him to miss the final Test in Pakistan, may have affected his form. He didn't look his usual self.
I've always found that if your private life is disrupted, if your partner was unhappy or in need of attention for example, it's hard to put that aside for a five-day Test, especially on tour.
You feel helpless, as I'm sure Marcus did, and he felt it was important enough to go home and stay there. There's nothing you can do. All you're getting is distressed phone calls, and it is a case of "What do you want me to do about it? I'm 10,000 miles away and I've got a Test match tomorrow".
Since Strauss struggled on the previous tour of the subcontinent as well, it could be that as an opening batsman he can't get used to the slower, lower pitches out there. He's not one of the guys who likes to bludgeon the ball, he prefers it to come on to the bat.
In the first two Tests in India he has got himself out having a go at balls which have been very wide of his off stump. But that is one of his strong areas, and when he scores his hundreds, he cuts and drives the ball a lot, so you can't vilify him for playing shots at balls he normally smacks for four.
You can mess around the nets so long as you are not being destructive and doing yourself down. Strauss keeps getting in and making a start, so his technique seems to be in good shape. I think he just needs to get back in the zone.
He is not the only one. Many of the England batsmen are getting themselves out when they are well set. I'm hearing a lot from the camp about how "we play best when we're positive", and I'm starting to think that it's becoming an excuse. You've got to be able to play in various ways, and Paul Collingwood and Cook showed in the Napur Test that a patient approach pays dividends.
England need to drop their tempo. To score 300 and get out quickly is dangerous in India. The Indians don't mind what speed they play at. They could score 500 and then the wicket will turn to dust on you.
Mark Butcher was talking to Andrew Tong
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