Strauss: We must remain focused
Andrew Strauss believes his England side can make history several times over in 2011, as long as they keep their eye on the ball - starting with the final Ashes Test in Sydney.
Strauss is already plotting a successful World Cup campaign, and an assault on the top of the International Cricket Council Test rankings is also on his New Year wish-list.
Both those achievements would be firsts for England, their best of nine World Cup attempts so far concluding in three runners-up finishes.
Strauss is not against reaching for the stars, and he and team director Andy Flower are constantly planning England’s future campaigns.
But neither will countenance gazing too far ahead, at the expense of the next stepping stone for their team’s improvement.
That is why Strauss is determined England will not be distracted from their preparations and then performance in a Test which will decide whether his team become the first set of tourists in 24 years to win the Ashes outright in Australia.
The urn is already retained, of course, after a landslide victory at the MCG.
But, acknowledging a hugely significant year ahead, Strauss said: “All the more reason for not taking our eye off the ball.
“The nature of international cricket - there’s no time to sit back and dwell on what has been - you’re always looking forward to the next event.”
England followed innings victory in the second Test in Adelaide with defeat by 267 runs in Perth - and not until they have completed their Ashes mission at the SCG will Strauss allow his team-mates to focus on this winter’s sub-continental World Cup, or home Test series next summer against number one-ranked India and Sri Lanka.
He added: “Clearly we want to win the Ashes and not just retain them - and then you look at the World Cup, and Sri Lanka and India. They’re huge series ahead of us, and that’s pretty motivating and exciting.”
England began this winter in fourth place in the Test rankings - below South Africa and Sri Lanka, as well as India, but above Australia.
They are due to rise significantly, if they can avoid defeat at least in Sydney - and with ever more attention on the ICC tables, thanks to the prospect of a Test championship in 2013, there is much to be gained.
“If we win the Sri Lanka and India series, we’re going to be closer than we are now,” said Strauss.
“They’re not going to be easy by any means, and we can’t think about them too much at this stage.”
Before then comes a World Cup, in which England are hoping to add only their second ICC global tournament success - the first came in the World Twenty20 last spring - and Strauss is adamant it is within the capabilities of the current squad.
“Yes, absolutely,” he said. “Our one-day cricket has come a long way after the last two years or so, and we’ve got huge confidence from winning the Twenty20 World Cup.
“But those conditions [in Asia] are quite unique, and we need to play them well.”
England are optimistic of lasting improvement in all three formats.
“Success breeds success, there’s no doubt about it,” their Test and one-day international captain believes. The key is not to let that slip.
“We are in a special little purple patch, and the easy way to get out of that purple patch is by assuming it’s just going to continue. That’s a bit of a warning sign.”
Some of England’s most recent experiences have been especially instructive.
“Perth proved to us that there’s a very real danger that if you’re not 100% right you’re going to get beaten again,” added Strauss.
“That’s why we’re looking forward to this week and hoping to put that to bed. You’ve got to be careful you don’t take your foot off the accelerator.”