Strauss will stay in place

Thirty years ago, there would have been all sorts of sanctions against anyone who, like Graeme Swann (above), dare to comment on the captaincy problem.-AP Thirty years ago, there would have been all sorts of sanctions against anyone who, like Graeme Swann (above), dare to comment on the captaincy problem.

Andrew Strauss was dismissed cheaply for Middlesex against Durham. He needed a couple of long, imposing innings to re-establish his status as one of England's leading batsmen and now he is under the microscope again. By Ted Corbett.

Now that the Test world is comparatively quiet — so few matches are played at this time of year — we have a minute or two to look at what makes a great captain.

In England, as you can imagine, the debate rages as fiercely as ever. Andrew Strauss made 0 and 6 for Middlesex against Durham and was out in both innings to Graham Onions, one of the top half dozen for a place in the England attack.

Strauss needed a couple of long, imposing innings to re-establish his status as one of England's leading batsmen and now he is under the microscope again.

The cricket press have been generous to Strauss. They have been accused of setting out to get him and have replied that they were doing nothing of the sort. They think he is the proper man for the job but . . .

England lost heavily to Pakistan and could only draw 1-1 after losing the first Test in Sri Lanka and Strauss hardly made a run. Was it not, the pressmen asked in a most diffident manner, a matter of public concern, a talking point for all those in the slightest bit concerned with the future of the team that is still on top of the world?

Of course it was and it would be discussed by any set of cricket writers in any country.

Enter a dragon. A man who has not only achieved fame and fortune by the power of his spin bowling but sprung to the attention of the nation by the force of his arguments.

Graeme Swann, whose youthful chuckles caused Duncan Fletcher to declare him persona non grata after his first tour to South Africa in 1999, has grown up in the last few years ready not just to bowl out the best batsmen but to describe how he did it and what the consequences might be.

His idea of an argument is to start one himself and fan the flames afterwards. “This is a witch hunt,” he told the assembled multitude and the minor glow in the back of the fireplace turned into a mighty blaze.

The truth is that this debate has been conducted in a most leisurely way. If Swann had not been at school and no doubt paying great attention to his teacher back in the 1980s he would have seen just how a proper campaign against a captain was conducted.

Consider David Gower during the most humiliating campaign in 1986 at home against India and in 1989 against Australia.

He was sacked after the defeat by India at Lord's partly because of the 5-0 drubbing handed out by the mighty West Indies the previous winter.

Every man's hand was against him before the Lord's Test began. Peter May, chairman of selectors, told him he must be more demonstrative and Gower, ever one to make his own comment on such ideas, ran out waving his arms in all directions. May must have noticed.

May sacked him in the seclusion of the massage room at Lord's and told me immediately afterwards: “I had to do something. The chaps at my golf club were making comments.” By such experts are big decisions made.

In 1989 Gower was back in charge because the head man at the Test and County Cricket Board ruled that England could not be led by a cricketer who has argued with an umpire as Mike Gatting did in Pakistan.

The 1989 series was thought to be an easy triumph for England because Australia had been described as “the weakest side ever to leave our shores.” Instead of collapsing in a heap they won 4-0 and mid-way through the second Test — again at Lord's — Gower walked out of a press conference because he was late for the theatre. No-one thought that was the right move.

My editor demanded I tell Lord's to sack Gower again. “They won't do that,” I said. “If he loses the series they will say he has not been reappointed.” By the time he had been heavily defeated both Gower and I were out of a job but we have both done quite nicely since, thank you, and from a newspaper column and a TV role, David has made rather more dollars than me.

So you will see why I am reluctant to forecast the end of the Strauss reign. He is not a great captain on the field, but he has been largely responsible for leading England to their premier place in the world. He must be doing something right, either by listening to the wisdom imparted by the coach Andy Flower or presiding over a contented dressing room.

Thirty years ago, there would have been all sorts of sanctions against anyone who, like Swann, dare to comment on the captaincy problem.

Now he can express his controversial views strongly and although someone might say to Swann that he should tone down his views, he is still in the team and bowling better than ever.

In theory he is the right man to succeed Strauss but not so long as he is a constant Twitter person, a regular contributor to the tabloids and the joker — not always appreciated — in the pack. His age, his seniority and his all-round skills say yes; his odd bits of unnecessary behaviour say no.

What is the solution?

Strauss may miss a trick or two tactically but he leads a great side and until his missing runs are needed he will stay in place.