The contrast between Andrew Strauss playing an Ashes series at home and one playing over in Australia, couldn’t be more marked. In familiar conditions, he looks comfortable and with a supportive ground of spectators, he looks like one of the most talented men ever to pick up a lump of willow. But over in Australia, on their dry and dusty tracks, a crisis of confidence appears to strike once he realises that he’s made a start, and he suddenly looks like he’s not even sure which end of the bat he should be holding.
Like every captain-batsman in the world, questions are inevitably asked by those looking at cricket betting tips about his ability to juggle personal performances with his other role whenever he posts a low score, and it’s hard to argue that it’s easy – possible even – to truly focus on the bigger picture rather than one’s own personal problems, and not see a dip in performance. But with only one half century from his tour down under at an average score of 25, it looked as though that demon had claimed another victim.
Fast forward to 2009 however, and we saw the real Andrew Strauss – a man leading by example and conviction, backed up with the bat. His choice of which bowler to employ in any given situation and more aggressive field placements showed up the more experienced Ricky Ponting and suddenly we were in with a sniff. But if England were going to win the series then he knew he would have to push home this advantage by putting in a shift at the crease too, and promptly delivered with 474 runs across his 9 innings, resulting in an average of over 53.
The question remains amongst those placing a cricket free bet this winter as to whether or not he can battle the demons which plague him when he sets foot in Australia – he has admitted to the previous success of the Aussie’s mind-games which in 2006 included leaving a banner to welcome the England plane which simply read: “tonk a pom” – but England need him to stand up and be counted if our bowlers are to have some respectable totals to defend.