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January 2009
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Benj Moorehead: Balanced Strauss the man to heal England

January 9th, 2009 by Benj Moorehead in England and tagged ,

On leaving the Captain Strauss press conference one had no more than a whiff of what has been going on lately but a far greater sense that the ECB may have found a most convenient man for a most inconvenient situation. There was one nervous glance as he walked in to an excited pack of journalists. But for the rest the new captain was composed, impressive, affirmative, clear, balanced - much like his batting in fact. If there are splits in the England camp, this man may heal them.

Speaking of England’s problems, he said: “The reality is that it’s going to take some effort on everybody’s behalf. That’s the reality.” Reality is what Strauss might provide England with a healthy dose of. No more love-ins, no more individualism. Feet back on the ground - unity and professionalism. “It is important at this stage, more than anything, that there is leadership in the side,” he said.

Strauss is battle-hardened, too – an entrenched member of Team England and a successful stand-in captain who has overcome the disappointment of being overlooked for the long-term captaincy and fought his way back after being dropped from the side.

And another point. The England team may be divided, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Strauss, by his nature, lies somewhere between the factions, holding the middle ground from where a captain can unite his side.

His measured manner invites questions about the degree of invention he will bring to captaincy. England gambled and went on the charge with Pietersen as captain; now they seek healing from the dependable Strauss. But there were signs too that the he wants to impose his “strong views” upon the team, to “run the team as I feel it should be run,” which is what Pietersen brazenly sought to do, only Strauss may have a little more tact. “All the players need to get together in a room, said Strauss, “[in part] for me to lay down what I believe the way forward is.”

Make no mistake – England are in a mess. But after the upheaval they have faced since last summer – Stanford humiliation, one-day annihilation by India, the Mumbai attacks, losing to India, losing their captain and coach - steady Strauss, on this form, is ideally suited to the considerable task at hand.

Benj Moorehead is editorial assistant of The Wisden Cricketer

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Miles Jupp: Spare a thought for JP

January 9th, 2009 by Miles Jupp in England

At this time of year who’d have expected this story? Even the story’s main protagonist was on holiday.

I don’t know if it was pedantic behaviour or control freakery but clearly KP felt it was important that we knew when he resigned. And clearly he felt he had to go. He must have realised that to make an ultimatum when you’ve only been in a job five months isn’t so much treading on thin ice as standing on extremely thin ice that you’ve already pissed on.

Whatever Moores or the ECB have done has angered KP so much that his wife was clearly unable to convince him that it was worth waiting until they got home before he started doing anything about it. “Come on Kevin”, she must have pleaded with him, “everybody knows it’s never a good idea to make work calls when you’re on holiday.” Poor JP – this can’t have been her most relaxing break, especially with Dancing on Ice just around the corner.

If Vaughan’s omission was a source of contention between the two men, then it was no more than a symptom of an altogether larger beef. And KP is probably not a good man to have difficulties with. In the flesh he is an incredibly imposing figure – tall, broad and muscular. If you angered him in a confined space, then I don’t imagine it would take too long before he started thrashing about like Dumbo’s mother.

Anyway, a whole host of worthies we’d almost forgotten about have put in their tuppence worth on the subject of the captain-coach relationship. Among these Mr R Illingworth from Pudsey in Yorkshire who said that “the captain should have the main say; he has to be the main person. If he doesn’t have the main say then he doesn’t have the backing of the players when he gets on to the field”. Is that the same R Illingworth who was both coach and chairman of selectors during Mike Atherton’s reign and frequently refused to let the captain field players of his own choice? He has clearly lost his memory and it was irresponsible of his nurses to let him talk to the media in the first place.

This has been a wretched start of the year for English cricket and other than those who have kept totally silent, few have come out of it well. People have spoken out of turn to the wrong people and that is how an unworkable situation becomes an unpalatable one. And it seems to me that the more money floods into this game, the lower price people involved in it are placing on their dignity.

Miles Jupp is an actor, comedian and cricket fan

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