Looking at Strauss differently

I must write about my change of attitude towards the England captain Andrew Strauss. I have had my doubts about him ever since he took charge but I cannot any longer swim against the tide. There are many different types of captains and Strauss is in a special category. He makes sure that each player knows his role and feels comfortable in it; he ensures that the old, the middle aged and the young 'uns feel welcome in the dressing room, know where they can turn for advice and understand in advance how the team tactics will work for them. Over to Ted Corbett.

The year 2011 has drawn to a close and it's time for all good sportswriters to gather round the crackling fire and name their great players and great moments of the year. No doubt about my first choice even if this was the year England became world leaders.

Cricket had its moment to remember when the three Pakistani rascals were sent off to jail. It was a salutary moment when British lawmen left no doubt in the minds of those who cheat, fix and otherwise deceive the guys who pay their gate money — no matter whether that is a few rupees in Dhaka or their £80 at Lord's — that such things would not be tolerated. From now on we know that if we see a bad shot and a batsman gets out it is because he has had a loss of concentration, that he is a bad player or that he is under orders to force a win.

It does not mean he has taken a few dollars from a bookmaker, or made his own decision to settle the result quickly to get a day off or that he is generally on the take.

After all that has happened in the last 15 years — and maybe for longer — the game has made a decisive step towards a great clean-up. That is the best news it has had for years but it does not mean that all the bad guys are in jail or that we have succeeded in what will still be a long battle before the game has regained its — not always deserved — reputation for straight shooting.

Double dealing of one sort or the other has been going on for scores of years; the game is so tempting as a betting medium that every generation has had its twisters.

I reckon there are a couple of international cricketers still around who cannot have slept well in their beds since that day when Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir received what may have been the shock of their young lives. They will have expected to be banned from the game for a while, but my feeling was that they never thought the law would come down on them so heavily.

I still feel Amir was treated unjustly. What choice did a lad in his teens, brought up in the backwoods, and still in his early days as a Test player have but to obey his captain.

It would take a youngster of considerable character to walk away, report the matter to the management and police in a foreign land and offer to give evidence against his superiors.

At best his short sentence will do him little harm, it may earn him sympathy when it is finished and one day, who knows, he may be able to show us that glorious swing once again.

Having learnt his lesson that is.

Sport, and cricket in particular, has not been all about sleight of hand this year. England won their right to be counted the first nation in the world with victories in Australia and over India.

Here I must write about my change of attitude towards their captain Andrew Strauss. I have had my doubts about him ever since he took charge but I cannot any longer swim against the tide and you will not be reading about my concerns any longer.

There are many different types of captains and Strauss is in a special category. His greatest influence is before the side runs on to the field. He makes sure that each player knows his role and feels comfortable in it; he ensures that the old, the middle aged and the young 'uns feel welcome in the dressing room, know where they can turn for advice and understand in advance how the team tactics will work for them.

He is not, as I have said too often already, the greatest tactician, the leader who can turn a match by switching long leg to fourth slip or putting on a seamer when the world expects him to choose a slow left armer.

He is orthodox and defensive and plain but behind him is a team so certain of itself that perhaps he can still be upheld as the finest captain of his day.

I am, by the way, pleased that Monty Panesar is back in the tour party for the series against Pakistan in the Gulf. He adds to the joy of the game and all too often he proves he is a fine spinner and if his fielding is imperfect and his throws take longer to arrive than the second post, so what? It takes all sorts to make a Test team.

I have also loved for many years the inventive play of Manchester United; indeed I seem to have more off-spring who are devoted to their cause than any other father.

Strangely, I have never been able to get my head round the worth of one Wayne Rooney. It must be his looks, that chunky body on the top of sturdy legs rather than the elegance of such maestros as Ronaldo and Cantona.

All that changed when he hit a goal with an overhead scissors kick that made me realise this striker has everything. Not just strength, pace and two equally adaptable feet but athleticism to rate with the best.

As I write United trail their great rivals City, but if Rooney can maintain his skills yet another trophy will surely land in the lap of Sir Alex Ferguson by the end of the season.