England's new captain Andrew Strauss yesterday offered the firmest possibleindication that it is time for the team to move forward. That intention was made perfectly clear by the announcement of Alastair Cook as the vice-captain for the Test tour of the West Indies.
Although options were strictly limited since two other players, Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen, could hardly be considered having already been Test captain, it had been widely believed that England would settle for the safer choice of a senior player,probably Paul Collingwood.
In deciding on Cook, 24 last month, as his lieutenant, Strauss is demonstrating early that this is his team and he will run it the way he thinks fit. There have already been signs that he has a clear vision for the team and that he will mould it in that image.
Cook is not officially the vice-captain, but in the undesirable event of Strauss being injured he will take over. That would be a big responsibility considering the star names in the England dressing room – none bigger than Flintoff and Pietersen.
Cook said: "It is a very unofficial position, but it is another chance to gain some valuable leadership experience and help Straussy in any way I can. We do have a lot of leadership experience in the dressing room, with three other guys who have captained England. They will be there to offer help and ideas and I can give them the viewpoint of someone that is slightlyyounger and might come at things from a different angle."
While it is a refreshing move, England will be praying Strauss manages at least to see out the West Indies tour unencumbered by injury. Cook is a fixture in the team and after 36 matcheshas an average of 42.09, but he has had trouble lately converting fifties to hundreds. His last century was against Sri Lanka in Galle 13 months and 21 Test innings ago. In other words, he has enough on his plate.
The team for the warm-up three-day match against St Kitts which starts today is not so decisive. Collingwood is rested, with Ian Bell and Owais Shah seemingly in a batting shoot-out for the No 3 batting berth.
There is no place for fast bowlers Stuart Broad or Ryan Sidebottom, or for Graeme Swann, despite his performances in India. Both other spinners, Monty Panesar and Adil Rashid, are in. There are clearly still Test places to play for.