Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - 'Crisis man' Strauss braces for another challenge. Strauss has replaced Ashley Giles on an interim basis.
Strauss has replaced Ashley Giles on an interim basis.
A little less than 13 years ago, Andrew Strauss was asked to rescue England's Test team from the doldrums ahead of a tour to the West Indies. Then, it was as a player and captain. Six years later, it was Strauss again who the ECB turned to after the disastrous 2015 World Cup campaign and then a Test series defeat in the Caribbean, appointing him director of cricket. Now, he takes up the same role on an interim basis, replacing Ashley Giles who was removed in the wake of the Ashes humbling, ahead of yet another tour to West Indies. While so much is up in the air right now, one thing is certain: Andrew Strauss is English cricket's man for a crisis.
For now, he is tasked with putting arrangements in place for the upcoming three match Test series in the Caribbean. Longer-term, who knows what Strauss' role might be. There are those within the game who think he would make an excellent Chair of the ECB, a position that is currently vacant in the wake of Ian Watmore's resignation last year. Whatever role Strauss ends up filling – he is currently Chair of the ECB's cricket committee and sits in on Board meetings as a non-voting participant – he is widely respected throughout the game and offers a lot. And it is clear that English cricket needs him.
Strauss has many qualities that the ECB could do with in a significant leadership position. “I worked closely with him on the Working Party I chaired into the Domestic Structure in 2016 and his qualities shone through,” Andy Nash, former Somerset chair and ECB Board member, tells Cricbuzz. “I've chaired companies here, in the EU and US. The key to being a Chair is being able to identify real leaders amongst a plethora of managers. Managers do it right: leaders do the right thing. The best ones can see around corners, are usually quite humble and have the ability to make others follow them. They also develop sound judgement. Crucially they also inspire. This is Strauss.
“He also made a big impression at Somerset when parachuted in for preparation before returning to the England side [ahead of the Test series against India in 2011]. He exuded integrity, humility and compassion for his new teammates and earned respect in no time. He took time – which was scarce for him – chatting to our younger players.”
The ECB have been criticised for a lack of cricket knowledge at the executive levels and Strauss, having led England to the top of the Test rankings in 2011, captained an Ashes winning team in Australia and been a top-class opening batter, is someone who can plug that gap. As part of his previous stint as director of cricket he learnt a lot about player identification and analytics while he has stayed up to date with the modern game as part of the ICC men's cricket committee and as an advisor to Rajasthan Royals in addition to his ECB roles and commentary stints with Sky Sports.
Mickey Arthur sits on the ICC men's cricket committee with Strauss. “I have always been very impressed with Andrew and his views,” Arthur says. “He is a very good communicator and somebody who expresses his views but listens to the opinions of others. He clearly has a very good cricket brain and cares for the game.” That communication point is an important one given the ECB's PR failures on several big issues, including relating to the allegations of racism made by Azeem Rafiq as well as The Hundred.
Strauss is big on vision and having a clear overriding goal, something the ECB also desperately needs given the myriad challenges it currently faces. “I thought it was very important to give people clarity on my vision, where I thought we needed to get to,” Strauss said on the At Home With Leaders podcast about his first stint as director of cricket. “Winning is not a good thing to think of as a goal. Winning has to be a focus but it's got to be part of something bigger. I do think you can grab people by having a really strong vision for what you want to achieve.”
During Strauss' first stint as director of cricket, that vision was to win the 2019 World Cup. While it is fair to say that the focus on white-ball cricket has now become too dominant in the ECB's thinking, at the time it was absolutely right that English cricket focused on improving the men's team's woeful performances at global tournaments. Strauss was not afraid to take innovative solutions to do that, establishing the north-south series of one-day matches and selecting the squads based on the Professional Cricketers' Association MVP scheme which gave increased importance to the county 50-over tournament.
Those are all qualities that Strauss may deploy in a broader role at the ECB. In the meantime, there are several decisions to be made over the next two weeks, not least who will select the squad for the West Indies and then who will coach it.
It is perhaps not a good omen for Chris Silverwood, of whom there was no mention in the ECB's statement on Giles, that Strauss' first decision as director of cricket in 2015 was to sack Peter Moores as head coach. Having played under him and spoken to senior players in the dressing room, Strauss decided Moores was not up to the job and acted swiftly. Time will tell whether he makes the same decision about Silverwood.
The decision to remove Moores from his post is an example of the sort of decisiveness and willingness to make difficult decisions that England's Test set-up requires. For all the context of COVID and an unrelenting schedule, Giles and Silverwood appear to have given too much leeway to the players, allowing them to miss England duty but play in the IPL for fear of alienating them for instance. It is difficult to see something like that happening on Strauss's watch. He has proven he is comfortable making tough decisions, even unpopular ones.
During Strauss' first stint as director of cricket, Kevin Pietersen began the 2015 summer with a triple century for Surrey which intensified the clamour for him to return to the fold after being dumped at the end of the 2013/14 Ashes. With a home series against Australia coming up, it would have been easy to bring Pietersen back into the Test team but Strauss believed that would cause more trouble than it was worth. He told Pietersen there was no way back, ending the issue once and for all.
As he was as a captain, Strauss will also be strong on the responsibilities of the players which, amidst reports of a drinking culture on the Ashes tour and players refusing to do skinfold tests, appears necessary. “That whole concept of only being in that position for a short period of time,” Strauss added on the podcast. “There have been so many people before you and are going to be so many people after you. What contribution are you going to make while you're in that team?
“We had a concept of taking the cap forward. Getting the players to savour the time they had… also be aware of the responsibility to set the standard for the next group of England cricketers that were coming along. I felt that was incredibly important. I really like this concept of how you win and how you are as a group of people.”
At a time when English cricket is getting shot at left, right and centre, it is comforting that someone as respected and as sound of judgement as Strauss is taking on more of a role at the ECB. Time will tell if there is a bigger role for him in the future. “He towers above his ECB colleagues in my estimation,” Nash adds. “He will also choose his colleagues wisely. My only fear for even someone of his calibre is the ECB itself. It's structure and strategy is wholly unfit for purpose and as a result it's bitterly divided and may prove ungovernable even for someone as gifted as Strauss.”