Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Strauss' recall defies logic

There is something palpably wrong with a cricket team when a batsmen can underperform for two years, culminating in 25 innings without hitting a century, and is then dropped before being recalled for doing precisely nothing. Yet that is exactly what has happened to Andrew Strauss.

After a disastrous run in the one-day side, for which he averaged 19 in his last 14 games, Strauss was dispensed with after the World Cup. He was then dropped from the Test side for the tour of Sri Lanka, a man who appeared mentally fatigued and, more worryingly, someone whose minimalist style of play had been worked out by opponents, who starved him of width outside off-stump. Unable to score prolifically through the V, Strauss appeared a man whose time at international level was up after outstanding initial success. It takes an excellent player to score 10 Test hundreds, clearly; but to recall him based on past successes, totally ignoring his form, is ridiculous.

Since the 3rd Test last summer, Strauss has not been a man reinvigorated by a break from his international career. Rather, his domestic struggles have been painful. Towards the end of the 2007 season, he could barely score a run for his county finishing with an average some 37 runs behind Owais Shah. For Northern Districts in the decidedly modest standard of Kiwi domestic cricket, he hit a century in his final game, but his overall average was 26. What justification did England have for picking him on this tour?

None whatsoever - except he was a 'safe pair of hands' at slip and, more significantly, he possessed a central contract. That was clearly a big mistake. But two wrongs do not make a right. The favoritism borders on the absurd. In England's first tour game, Strauss scored a painstaking 25-ball four, while his rival for a spot in the side - Owais Shah - hit 96. The perpetual fall guy of English cricket, Shah was inexplicably left out for Ravi Bopara in Sri Lanka and faces similarly unjust treatment here.

Because he has become a member of the 'inner circle' and despite the fact that his recent form is atrocious, Strauss will almost certainly play in the first Test. He will bat at three. It is a wise move to allow the Cook-Vaughan partnership to develop, but a bewildering one to play a man out of his normal position when he is in such dire form. Recalling Strauss evokes the blind loyalties of the Duncan Fletcher era, with the implication that reputation counts for more than consistent failings over an 18-month period. It is a selection which totally ignores any convention of picking on merit. What must the best batsman in England, and consummate number three - Mark Ramprakash - be thinking?


Chrispy said...

Quite agree Tim, it is absolutely absurd. If England line up with Strauss and Harmi next week I think I will check myself into the funny farm because obviously I must be mad to think that Tremlett and Shah are more deserving of Test spots and more skilled I believe. Tremlett was spot on against India and was very economical. Contrast that to Harmison and it is appaulling that he may play. And Strauss, well, many batsman should be ahead of him, starting with Shah and running through Ramprakash, Joyce and Trott. Only if they select Ravi Bopara could England be more rediculous.

Nick Gammons said...

If Strauss plays in the first Test it will be a disgraceful decision and a cruel slap in the face for Shah, who must be utterly bewildered by his treatment.

The England selectors should be made to explain their selection criteria and be rightly vilified for it.

As you so rightly say, Tim, the favoritism being showed to Strauss is as bad as the worst days at the end of Fletcher's time in charge.

Rob said...

I agree completely, it is almost laughable that he was picked for the tour. Boycott said a few weeks ago 'Blimey that Strauss must have made a lot of runs in the nets'. Strauss himself also said that he was going to NZ to play league cricket to influence his selection for the tour. All well and good except... he flew out the same week as the party was announced.

Richard Lake said...


I agree that Shah has not received equitable treatment from the selectors (although his form in the recent One Day series doesn't suggest a man knocking the door down for selection).

However, you do your arguement no favours at all by harking back to a man who has failed time and time again for England and is clearly not cut out for test cricket.

Strauss has scored ten centuries in 43 tests and averages over 40. He is also top scoring in the final warm up game to the first test. Ramps scored two centruies in 52 matches averaging 27.

I think Shah was unlucky in SL not to play, but with Strauss showing a return to the classy form that he has shown time and again for England, I for one will be glad to have him back.

Straight Point said...

have you heard of term 'hunch'...may be eng selectors had one...

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