August 14, 2022

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Andrew Strauss admitted to ‘a very hard conversation’ as he attempted to justify the most...

Andrew Strauss admitted to ‘a very hard conversation’ as he attempted to justify the most controversial call of his mass Ashes clear-out.
The decision to drop two of England’s greatest and still their best bowlers in Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad for next month’s tour of the Caribbean has been the highly contentious element of a cull that has claimed one managing director, two senior coaches and eight of the players who crashed to a 4-0 Ashes humiliation.
And the man who, for now, is back at the helm of England cricket said, in his understated way, that two bowlers with more than 1,100 Test wickets between them were ‘disappointed’ not to be travelling to Antigua on February 24. For disappointed read fuming.

Andrew Strauss has attempted to justify the most controversial call of his Ashes clear-out

‘All I can say is I hope they understood the thinking behind it and what we’re trying to achieve here,’ said Strauss after an eventful first week as interim managing director. ‘And also they get the message very strongly this isn’t the end for them.
‘It was a very hard conversation and, of course, it’s a high-profile decision. We know there will be a lot of interest in this but we feel we’re doing it for the right reasons and it is going to help the England team at a time when it really needs to develop quickly.’
Those ‘right reasons’ appear to be a desire to ‘refresh’ a woefully under-performing Test team and to challenge other senior players to step out of the shadows of Anderson and Broad and prove they can be leaders for England.
‘Everyone expects the captain to push the team forward but anyone who has played for England knows influential voices behind him are important,’ said Strauss. ‘We need leaders, not just the captain, and this provides an opportunity for players to become that.

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Stuart Broad (L) and Jimmy Anderson (R) were dropped for England’s tour of the West Indies

‘In the bowling attack we are looking at the likes of Mark Wood and Chris Woakes to play more of that role. We expect a lot from Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow as well. They have the chance to pull out the stops and help Joe Root.’
The suspicion remains Anderson and Broad as a partnership possessed personalities simply too strong for the captain’s comfort. And that their frustration in Australia at the constant under-performing of the batsmen led to batters v bowlers factions within the dressing room. Whisper it but is this another Kevin Pietersen situation?
Not so insisted Strauss, who closed the door on Pietersen for good when he first became team director in 2015. ‘If they were difficult to handle they wouldn’t have played for so many years,’ said Strauss at Lord’s. 
‘It’s hard to criticise either in how they are on and off the field. It would be very harsh on them to see this as an issue that needs to be dealt with.

England management want players to step out of the shadows of Anderson and Broad

‘I just feel this is a moment when we have an opportunity to start projecting forward, especially with a view to winning away from home. They will be in the mix for selection come the start of the summer. I’m just trying to create options for the new managing director and head coach.’
What this does not appear to do is give England a better chance of winning a Test series in the Caribbean, where they have a worse record even than in Australia, for only the second time in 54 years. ‘When you’re selecting teams you always try to balance winning today and winning tomorrow,’ said Strauss.
‘We feel we’ve selected a team capable of winning in the West Indies and that is absolutely the intention. But of course we’ve got half an eye on tomorrow. It’s the start of a new cycle and it would be remiss of us not to take the future into account.’
What Root makes of it all remains unknown for now. He said at the end of the Ashes he wanted Anderson and Broad in the Caribbean but it appears Strauss took responsibility for their absence away from the captain by insisting the decision was made by the new selection panel of himself, interim coach Paul Collingwood and head scout James Taylor.

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Former England captain Strauss (R) insists their international careers are far from over

‘Joe was part of the conversation but he doesn’t have a vote on selection,’ said Strauss.
There was other business for Strauss to address. He said Root has insisted he bats at three rather than his preferred four in the Caribbean, Dan Lawrence will be the reserve opener behind another new partnership in Zak Crawley and Alex Lees – and that Ben Foakes deserves his chance ‘as one of the best, if not the best, keeper in the world and a very good batsman in his own right’ ahead of another big figure left out in Jos Buttler.
Then there was the issue of Ollie Robinson’s fitness, called into question by bowling coach Jon Lewis in Australia. 
‘Ollie has shown he has the potential to be a world-class bowler in all conditions,’ said Strauss. ‘But his conditioning is not what it needs to be and he is working very hard at the moment to get that up.’
There are no doubts, of course, about the fitness of Anderson, at 39, and Broad at 35. Nor their quality. 
But whatever Strauss says, this has the feel of the end of an era. Time will tell if a leader in Strauss who does not get much wrong has got this one right.


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