Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cook and Broad named as ODI and Twenty20 captains, respectively.

And Strauss retires from so-called pyjama cricket.

So, what to make of it all really?

You could tell during the World Cup that the winter had taken a lot out of Andrew Strauss. In interviews, he looked shattered. However, the main target of the winter was to win The Ashes, and that they did. They came up with a masterplan, they worked hard at creating a squad that was able to be rotated, had youth mixed with experience and created a superb team spirit. Once the final wicket had been taken in Sydney, the world was England's oyster.

But then, things changed. Cook, England's record breaking Ashes run scorer, was sent home after not being selected for the ODI series. Injuries started to crop up. Suddenly, that well organised squad looked in disarray. Liam Plunkett was called up from the Caribbean for one, meaningless ODI match (Adil Rashid was playing for South Australia, for jet lag purposes, this might've been a better idea, but then he did have a contract to honour). Steven Davies was dropped and Matt Prior was brought back in at the top of the order, despite his position up the top being questioned on countless occasions. 

The 6-1 loss to Australia in the ODI series was miles away from the well organised and well prepared victory in the Ashes. And it just got worse at the World Cup as fatigue, more injuries and homesickness got the better of most of the squad. Even Swann, the always seemingly happy and joking kind of man, got sucked into a bitter and angry persona as catches went down, dew soaked the ball and Mahmudullah smacked him around the park in a historic victory for Bangladesh. 

England's World Cup campaign ended in much the same disarray as the ODI series in Australia. Eoin Morgan was out, then he was in after KP got a hernia injury. Jade Dernbach was called up for one match against Sri Lanka, as was Adil Rashid after Mike Yardy had gone home. Stuart Broad and others were injured, Anderson's radar had clearly been left at the SCG and England's fringe players of James Tredwell and Luke Wright were outplaying their shattered counterparts. And Strauss, who had spent about 10 days at home since October, was probably frazzled at this point.

Therefore, today's announcement that he's stood down as ODI captain and retired from the format isn't really a surprising one. He's 34, so with this, he can still have a good few years at the helm of the England Test side, leaving it well set up for his ultimate replacement of Alastair Cook.

Strauss didn't go to Bangladesh last year. He decided to rest, which earned him a lot of criticism from the press, who then took it back as soon as England retained the Ashes Down Under. In his place as captain was Essex's Alastair Cook. He'd been the unofficial vice-captain for a while, as Strauss and Flower steadied the ship after the Pietersen/Moores debacle. Cook did alright at the helm, England won the ODI series 3-0, after some tense moments and Tamim Iqbal and won the Test series 2-0, even after some dodgy sessions which would've been punished by a better side.

With India (World Cup champions) and Sri Lanka (World Cup runners up, have a tendency to thrash us consistently) coming over this summer, it's going to be a massive test for Alastair Cook. As an Essex fan, it is a massive blow, as it means we not only lose him for the Test series, but now for ODI series too. However, as an England fan, I'm not certain about this. He was overlooked for the ODI series against Australia and overlooked for the World Cup. I know that he can perform in domestic one dayers, he's been a key performer for Essex in limited overs for the past few years. But on the international stage, I am unsure. 

I can also understand why the ECB have selected him too. Strauss isn't going to be around forever, and for England, the ODI format is the one where they have been known to groom their young, future Test prospects (Stuart Broad, for example) before putting them in the Test side. This, however, can be seen as England not taking that format seriously. If they genuinely want to become number one in this format, they have to take it as seriously as Test cricket, rather than shoving in someone who they've not selected for a year and hoping that he learns to become England's next Test captain in 100 over matches.

As for Stuart Broad's Twenty20 captaincy, well, could we possibly be looking at another Flintoff situation (only without all the booze, pedalos and awful, awful Morrisons adverts)? It may only be Twenty20, so he only has four overs to work with, but could he chuck himself in too early and use up all his overs, thinking he's the answer to England's problems? If he's seriously considering becoming an all-rounder, could this impact upon him?

I'm going to wait and see how this all figures out. It's a three way captaincy, which is also going to make watching England an even more interesting one over the next few months. For me, I'd have liked to have seen someone like Ian Bell be given the ODI reigns and then England recall Cook into the ODI squad. But then the ECB don't really work like that, do they?

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