Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Farewell, Straussy.

In happier times Down Under, celebrating a 50 at the SCG.
"The truth is I haven't batted well enough for a long period of time now. [...] I've run my race." - Andrew Strauss in his press conference announcing his retirement from all cricket.
I've been sat here since Strauss' press conference took place trying to think of something to write. I've watched the cursor blink at me, trying to put into words how I feel about one of my favourite players retiring from the game.

As someone born in the early '90s, I didn't have the pleasure of watching England be truly terrible at cricket. Instead, I got into cricket in 2004, around the time Andrew Strauss was establishing himself at the top of the Test order. Since then, I've grown up watching the rises and falls of the career of this quiet, but commanding, presence in the England team. From that catch of Gilchrist at Trent Bridge to the career saving 177 at Napier in 2008 to leading England to their first triumph Down Under in 24 years, Strauss' influence on English cricket will surely be remembered fondly for years to come.

About to do the sprinkler at the MCG after England's 2010 triumph.
After the highs of 2011, it's been a tough year for Strauss and England. Four straight Test defeats kicked off 2012 and questions about his form began to resurface. His captaincy and his batting were exposed due to England's failings and he realised that, at the age of 35, it's difficult to stop the slump.

Rather than cling onto former glories, Strauss has bowed out of the game having played 100 Tests, in which he scored over 7000 Test runs at a respectable average of 40.91 and held onto a record 121 Test catches. His partnership with Cook has scored more runs than any other opening partnership in English Test cricketing history and his captaincy record, whilst somewhat blemished by this dismal 2012, shows that England won almost half of the matches in which he was in charge.

There are some unwanted memories in there too. The 2006/07 Ashes series, and his massive slump of form during and after it, is one which he'll probably use his 100 bottles of wine to forget about, especially as he was the unfortunate victim behind Shane Warne's 700th Test wicket. Four years later, the furore surrounding the spot fixing accusations against Pakistan in 2010, and the repercussions it had on the ODI series, left him looking visibly drained, but he managed to cope with the daily uproar and Ijaz Butt and displayed great integrity whilst doing so. This summer is one he'll also wish to put behind him, especially with the entire Pietersen affair, something which he'll surely be relieved to have off his plate.

Celebrating his 141, his last Test century, which came at Trent Bridge against the West Indies.
I have many memories Andrew Strauss and it's difficult to select a favourite moment. His two centuries in the 2005 Ashes series, one of which came about after being left bleeding by Brett Lee, are usually overlooked because of the worship of the personalities of Flintoff and Pietersen. The career saving knock of 177 against New Zealand, which I watched in darkness whilst wrapped in a duvet on the sofa nursing a migraine, is up there too. Watching him at Lord's make his maiden first-class double hundred last summer was also a joy, because the celebrations of himself, and Matthew Hoggard, showed how much it meant to him. Being there as him and Cook put on 150-0 after bowling Australia out for 98 at the MCG is certainly a highlight of my short cricket watching life, as is his aggressive 50 at the SCG, where he came out all guns blazing to really put the Australians under pressure.

Today marks the beginning of a new era of English cricket, but for now, I just want to say that it's been a pleasure growing up watching him and it was wonderful watching a successful England team, while it lasted, around the globe. Strauss handled nearly everything, from Ijaz Butt to being asked to pose with a duck shaped candle, with dignity. Whilst his form with the bat was patchy at times, it was when he was in form that watching him square cut to the boundary would always be a glorious sight. An incredibly intelligent man, it is surely to be fully expected that he remains in cricket after his retirement but if he does want to enter into something political, I hope that it's cricket administrators, rather than Tory MPs, who are looking nervously over their shoulders.

Strauss has had his critics, but the way in which he has conducted himself as an England player has earned him much respect and plaudits around the cricketing world. England's next Test match is in November in Ahmedabad and it will be strange to see Alastair Cook head out to the middle without the light blue helmet of Strauss next to him. It'll be even stranger to watch Cook face the first ball.

Thank you for the memories, Straussy.

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