Strauss plans era of trust
Watch Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower speak to the media ahead of the First Test in Jamaica
New captain Andrew Strauss is excited about a fresh start for England as they begin their first assignment of 2009.
Strauss leads his first Test series as official captain against West Indies, beginning tomorrow at Sabina Park, but England will not name their final XI until the toss.
The signs regarding all-rounder Andrew Flintoff appeared to be positive this morning as he bowled with the rest of the anticipated pace attack for a quarter-of-an-hour in the middle, under the supervision of Ottis Gibson.
"There have been plenty of new dawns over the last few years," said Strauss. "But the reality is we have pretty much got the same bunch of players who've been playing for a while now.
"We all want to see us play more consistently and see the players reach their potential.
"We haven't quite got there and we will be pushing hard to try to get that high level of consistency over the coming weeks and months.”
Strauss is hoping a mature approach will benefit all.
"We have to trust players to take responsibility for their own performances,” he believes. "If that works well they will start pushing themselves a little bit harder.
"I have always had a feeling that if you're told what to do all the time there is a slight inkling of resentment there, and that maybe doesn't allow you to reach your potential.
"A lot of it is going to be about playing together as a group, dovetailing well, and reacting well in pressure situations - and winning the important sessions.
"All that sort of stuff is going to make the difference between being fourth or fifth in the world or being first or second."
"There is obviously a pressure on us there to go out and perform well - we recognise that and are pretty comfortable with where we are and looking forward to it."
The inclusion of Flintoff will provide the England team with the kind of balance any captain would crave.
“He has come through practice very well and we are confident he will be playing,” Strauss said.
“It is not rocket science to say that a five-man bowling attack gives you more options and you only win Test matches by taking 20 wickets, so I think that should be your priority.
“But at the same time there is also that balance there, isn't there? You need to get enough runs on the board.
“But that is where Fred is so important for us because he allows us the luxury of playing a five-man bowling attack.”
Flintoff is primed to be used as more of a strike bowler in this coming series, a move which would increase expectation of wickets but lessen the stress on his body.
“Out of all the bowlers in the world he is up there among the bowlers who batsmen don't like facing,” Strauss explained. “It is a shame to use him too much as a stock bowler.
“He is better than that and if we can take pressure off him in terms of length of spells he bowls, it might help with his injury situation, and we might get more wickets out of him as well.
“But it is all a balancing act. In a Test match you sometimes have to put your theories behind the practicalities of what is actually happening on the cricket pitch at any given time.
“We have got a good balance now between bowlers that can bowl maidens and bowlers that can go out and blast wickets.
“If your role is a bit more defensive in terms of bowling maidens and putting pressure on the opposition, it doesn't mean you are not going to take five wickets on any given day, it is just the type of bowling you are going to do.
“Certainly from Fred's point of view it will help his bowling in the next two or three years.”
Left-armer Ryan Sidebottom is likely to be recalled despite playing only one first-class match in six months heading into this four-Test series.
The bowling is one area which needs urgent remedy: England have dismissed their opponents twice in only three of their past nine Tests, stretching back to the start of last summer.
“We need to bowl better, that is the reality,” Strauss said. “All our bowlers are proven match-winning bowlers but they need to do it more consistently.
“And you can argue that about the batting as well, as we haven't passed 400 all that often either, so it is not fair to apportion blame to the bowlers.
“As a team, as a group of 11 guys, we haven't put in the telling performances when we've needed to, and we need to start doing that pretty quickly.
“I am very comfortable with the personnel we have got in our squad at the moment.
“We have all proved we can perform well at this level. The extra jump is to do it consistently and when it matters, which is absolutely crucial.”
The ECB also announced that England would wear black armbands in the Jamaica Test as a mark of respect for the late Bill Frindall.