Strauss aims to keep captaincy with a rare win

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The Independent Online

Andrew Strauss' demeanour was far from bullish yesterday as he answered questions relating to the England captaincy, but you could tell that, deep down, he quite fancies the job. The imminent operation on Michael Vaughan's right knee and Andrew Flintoff's ankle injury have left Strauss in prime position to lead England in the coming four-Test series against Pakistan.

Strauss's recent dalliance with captaining the national side could hardly be described as a success - Sri Lanka have defeated England in their last five limited-overs matches - yet he would become the favourite to lead England's defence of the Ashes should he impress against Pakistan.

"Captaining England is a massive honour, and if I was offered the job of leading the Test side I would take it," Strauss said. "On the issue of captaincy, though, I have always believed that it is for other people to decide whether you are the right man to do the job. I have seen other players, not in the England set-up, who have held aspirations to captain but their motivation is ego driven. They have wanted to be the main man and that doesn't necessarily mean they are the best man. In fact, on a lot of occasions, they are probably the wrong man for those exact reasons.

"All you can do is your best, and captain the side in the way that it feels right to you. It is then up to other people to decide whether you or someone else is more suited to the job. If they are then that is fine. I would not consider it to be a slight on me if the job was given to someone else but, at the same time, I do feel I have something to offer."

England's performance in the NatWest Series has done little to further Strauss's cause. England are 4-0 down and will be whitewashed if they lose at Headingley today. These results have led some to suggest Strauss is struggling to motivate the side.

But captaincy relies heavily on experience and confidence, and England's one-day side possess little of either. Captains also depend hugely on their bowlers, and England's have been extremely poor throughout this series.

"The last two weeks have been tough for both myself and the team," Strauss said. "But I believe that you learn a lot more about yourself and others when things are not going well. I have found out more about myself in the past couple of weeks and hopefully I will be better for that experience. My personal style of leadership revolves around leading by example. I believe you cannot ask anyone to do something that you are not willing to do yourself, and I don't like leaving things to chance.

"The whole off-field stuff, preparation and fitness, has all got to be 100 per cent in place. I believe that if you invest in these things off the field you will get the benefits on it."

These principles are yet to bring Strauss success but a win today would allow him and his team to enter a challenging Test series against Pakistan with their confidence heightened.

England (from): *A J Strauss, M E Trescothick, A N Cook, I R Bell, K P Pietersen, P D Collingwood, J W M Dalrymple, A Loudon, ÝG O Jones, T T Bresnan, L E Plunkett, S Mahmood, S J Harmison, V S Solanki.

Sri Lanka (from): *D P M D Jayawardene, S T Jayasuriya, W U Tharanga, ÝK C Sangakkara, T M Dilshan, R P Arnold, M F Maharoof, W P U C J Vaas, C M Bandara, C R D Fernando, L S Malinga, C Kapugedera, R Perera.

Umpires: B Doctrove (WI) and M Benson (Eng).