Thursday, August 30, 2012

Now is the Summer of England's Discontent

Just when it had all been going so well. The West Indies had been dispatched and a series against South Africa to confirm England's status as No1 in the world beckoned. Several weeks later, England have lost both their test and ODI No1 status, Kevin Pietersen and now their captain Andrew Strauss.

Despite the disappointing form with the bat that was the reason for his departure, Andrew Strauss should be remembered as a fantastic captain presiding over a period of phenomenal success unmatched in modern times for England. His reception in the press conference yesterday and the reaction from the players since said it all.

It was unfortunate that the KP fiasco was brought up at the press conference, mooted as a possible factor in his decision but the journalists are obliged to ask and it should not have detracted too much if at all from the main event.

For England, it is a bitter pill to swallow given that they have lost both a good player and a tremendous leader at a time when the team is having 'a bit of a wobble'. In reality however Strauss did appear to be a player in decline and the chances of a significant improvement from here on seemed remote.

As ever with the man he has done the right thing and in doing so swiftly, England have time to rebuild but they must act quickly and decisively. Their batting options have been much reduced with question marks now at opener, No4 and No6.

There is of course the option of moving Trott to open and moving Bell back up the order but that could possibly be folly. Whilst Cook and Trott clearly enjoy batting together, finding another settled opening partner for Cook would seem the better option. No3 for England has been a troubled position since Robin Smith left the scene and it would seem better to leave Trott where he is.

Ian Bell, for all his obvious class and new found self belief seems happier lower down the order and has provided invaluable runs for England in the last few seasons, again it would seem the wrong thing to do to start moving him around again.

Kevin Pietersen of course provides a dilemma for Cook and Andy Flower. What he did was wrong and clearly the dressing room is against him but he remains one of England's best players. Sometimes things do happen but people must always be able to move on.

There have been a plethora of instances in both cricket and wider sport where there have been unpopular or selfish players in a dressing room but it doesn't necessarily need to be a divisive issue if it is handled properly. England are a good team but not one that is good enough to pass over world class players. If KP is prepared to tow the line from now on he should be given a second chance.

For Alastair Cook, one must hope that he follows the example of his mentor Graham Gooch and flourishes as a captain and opening batsman. It is not an easy role, just ask Mark Taylor or Michael Atherton but it can be done and Cook it would appear has all the tools.

He certainly - Tuesday aside - has done a good job since taking the OD role and whilst a test series in India followed by back to back Ashes is a slightly bigger matter, he should be well placed to succeed. He also has the added advantage of a settled attack. Managing his bowlers should not be too much of an issue with all the apparent selection issues in the batting department.

It has been a six months that promised so much but ultimately has been one to forget for England  Strauss' decision whilst disappointing for all, is probably the right one and has been done at a point that gives England time to integrate new players into what has been a winning unit - No Nonsense.