Andrew Strauss admits that he does not know whether he will lead England into the 2013 Ashes series, although he insisted yesterday that it was his intention to do so. Having relinquished the one-day captaincy and retired from that form of the game, Strauss's international representation is now limited to the long form. With Alastair Cook and Stuart Broad now captaining the one-day and Twenty20 teams respectively, Strauss declined to predict too far into the future.
Both Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan before him saw their authority leak away after losing the captaincy of the one-day sides. When asked yesterday if he was certain the same would not happen to him, Strauss replied: "I can't be sure; that's the simple answer to that question."
He insisted, though, that he wanted to continue. "I've still got a huge amount of drive and determination to take the Test team forward," he said. "I think that's an important starting point. I also think there's no reason why I can't work alongside Alastair and Stuart in mapping out the future of our team in all forms of the game."
Strauss will forever be famous as the man who captained England to two Ashes series wins. He could not promise, however, that he would lead England into the next one in two summers' time. "I think it's wrong to look too far ahead," he said when asked of the prospect yesterday. "But I look at the challenges: firstly this summer, Sri Lanka and India, two very tough Test-playing nations, then we've got South Africa next year, then onto those two Ashes Test series. And I certainly hope that I'll be around to contest those two Ashes series. We don't know what's around the corner, but that's certainly my intention."
Team director Andy Flower reinforced the sense that England were making a leap into the dark, but said he was enthusiastic about the three-captain experiment. "It's never been tried before," he pointed out. "So we're actually quite excited about the opportunity this provides us. I don't think any side has had three separate captains before, it's covering new ground. And for us that's exciting. We do not know 100 per cent whether it will work and be the most effective and efficient system. But we're going to give it a try. I think with the quality of people we've got around us, I think we form a good leadership team."
Having given up the one-day captaincy, Strauss described the decision to retire from that form of the game as wholly natural, and said that Alastair Cook would have a "blank canvas from which to work". The same was not true, though, of Paul Collingwood who will return to the ranks having had his T20 captaincy given to Broad.
"He's very disappointed, as you'd expect him to be," Flower explained. "He's been a very successful T20 captain for us, and he's been an outstanding member of the England side for a long time. He continues as a player. But we believe it's time to move on, and this next generation of young England leaders, behind Andrew Strauss, we feel their development, and what they can give England cricket in the medium to long term, is an important aspect of this decision."
As England skippers, Broad and Cook are now contenders to succeed Strauss when he relinquishes the Test captaincy. Flower was quick to deny, though, that the next year or so represented a "shootout" to accede to the top job. "One of the things I'd ask of these young guys is that they approach this in a very mature fashion," he said, "and I trust them to do so. Everyone here is fully behind Andrew Strauss. He feels very comfortable with that. I feel very comfortable with that. And these two young captains will learn a lot from him."
Cook, who has captained the Test team in Strauss's absence before, rejected any talk of another quick promotion. "Well that's a long way down the line," he said. "Obviously AS is still England's captain of the Test team."
Captaincy by numbers
12 Tests Andrew Strauss will take charge of in the next year – visits of Sri Lanka (three Tests) and India (four) this summer, before tours of Pakistan (three) and Sri Lanka (two) next winter.
24 One-day internationals Alastair Cook will lead the team in. Five each against Sri Lanka and India this summer, one against Ireland, five in India, five with Pakistan and three in Sri Lanka.
3 Stuart Broad has three Twenty20 matches to prepare for – one each against Sri Lanka and India this summer before one on a tour of India in October.