Andrew Strauss - a decent man in an indecent world!

Last Updated: Thu, Aug 16, 2012 10:07 hrs

The joy of cricket comes mainly from the variety it provides. There is a place in the game for the flamboyant and swashbuckling, the technician and the stonewaller, the quietly efficient player and those who star with their larger-than-life personalities. 

A Boycott and a Botham playing side by side symbolizes the different kinds of entertainment the game can provide. The fact that England for a long time have had Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff on one side and Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott on the other representing them depicts the strength of the side in varied terms. 

Strauss may not be a crowd puller or empty bars in the manner that Botham and Flintoff and Pietersen can. He is not a flamboyant batsman, nor even a showman as a character. But in his own quietly efficient and methodical manner he has played his part in England's rise to the No.1 spot in the ICC Test rankings.

And here I am not even talking of Strauss the captain, but just of Strauss the batsman. These days when the number of batsmen who boast of a career average of 50 and above is no longer a rarity even if it is not exactly commonplace it would be tempting to dismiss Strauss' career average of 41. 

The fact however remains that only about half a dozen England batsmen over the last 135 years have crossed this figure. Some of the outstanding England batsmen have had career averages in the forties. So under the circumstances Strauss' average cannot be just shrugged off. 

In any case, the 41 is only part of his career stats. What about the 7000 plus runs, the 21 hundreds and 27 half centuries? What about his impressive ODI record of 4205 runs at an average of 35.63 and a strike rate of virtually 81? The fact remains that Strauss has generally scored runs when they have been badly needed though of course he will not be happy with a highest score of 177.

At 35 he could yet get that coveted double hundred for he is still good enough to hold his place as a batsman. 

Indeed Strauss' first Test was the kind of debut that players only dream about. Against New Zealand at Lord's in 2004 he was well on course to getting a century in each innings before he was run out for 83 following a mix up with Nasser Hussain. 

He had already announced his arrival with a stroke filled 112 in the first innings becoming only the fourth batsman to launch his Test career with a century at the game's headquarters.What made it a true storybook feat was the fact that he was not in the playing eleven and only made it because the England captain Michael Vaughan suffered an injury on the eve of the match. 

In the years to follow Strauss remained an automatic choice as opening batsman being among the runs consistently. He has been particularly effective in a crisis or when England have been confronted by a strong attack. Early evidence of this was his two hundreds in the memorable Ashes series of 2005 - the only one on both sides to get more than one. 

By this time he was already looked upon as a future England leader having been a successful captain of Middlesex. It was no surprise when he finally took over when Pietersen quit in 2008 and straightaway proved himself as a no nonsense captain. Like his batting Strauss brought to his captaincy certain old fashioned values like goading his players to perform above their potential and instilling confidence in the younger men.

Of course there was never any doubt that he would lead from the front a prime example being when he headed the series figures in the triumphant 2009 Ashes campaign with a hundred and three half centuries. His masterly 161 set up the England victory at Lord's. With two successive Ashes triumphs at home and away Strauss takes his place as one of the most successful England captains ever. As the icing on the cake England took over at the top of the Test rankings when he has been at the helm.  

It's a double honour for Strauss as he leads England out at his favourite venue Lord's against South Africa on Thursday. Not only will he become only the ninth England player to figure in 100 Tests, it is also his 50th Test as captain. Only Mike Atherton (54) and Michael Vaughan (51) have led England in more Tests. 

It would be in the fitness of things if he could emulate his opposing skipper Graeme Smith who notched up a hundred in his 100th Test at the
Oval last month. Having started off his career eight years ago with a feat straight out of fiction another storybook touch is not out of Strauss' reach.

Of course his qualities as a captain too will be put to the test for England need to win the game to retain their top ranking. But he has already come out trumps in this regard by his measured reaction to the Pietersen controversy. He has been careful to see that the off field events have not affected the team members. 

As he has put it ''once the players became involved, I become very protective of that environment, the values by which we live and treat each other. And I'm willing to remain vigilant about that going forward because I think it's central to why we've become a very good side.''

Strauss is very much in control of things but he is far from being a dictator. As one critic has pointed ''Strauss is a decent man in an increasingly indecent world. He has displayed the timeless virtues of decency, honesty and modesty.'' These may be old fashioned values but are sorely needed in the dog eats dog cricketing world of today to provide a soothing touch.

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