Strauss knew time was right
Andrew Strauss did not want to ‘outstay his welcome’ in the Test team he explained, having announced his retirement from professional cricket at Lord's today.
The 35-year-old opening batsman, who won 100 Test caps, has been a regular in that side since his debut in 2004 and, having had a brief taste of the captaincy in 2006 and 2007, led in the five-day form since the beginning of 2009.
He was also one-day international skipper from the start of 2009 to the end of last year’s World Cup, having performed the role for part of 2006. He played in 127 ODIs and four Twenty20 internationals.
Having led England to back-to-back Ashes wins, Strauss oversaw their progress to the top of the Test rankings with a 4-0 whitewash of India a year ago. He won 24 of his 50 Tests in charge.
England’s time at the top was hard, winning three Tests and losing six, and the recent 2-0 defeat to South Africa saw the Proteas take over at number one. It also confirmed to Strauss it was time for change - with Alastair Cook succeeding him.
“I’m very conscious that at the end of the South Africa series, with us losing the number-one ranking, it’s time for the side to refresh and have a little think about how best to retain (sic) that number-one ranking and this is a great way for us to be able to do that,” Middlesex's Strauss, who made his senior county bow in 1997, said.
“Alastair is going to come in and instil a huge amount of energy. I’m sure he’s rightly excited to be taking on this challenge and that’s going to motivate people and push them forward.
“If people think I still should be part of the side, that kind of validates my decision to go in a lot of ways because I would have hated to outstay my welcome.”
Strauss admitted he had been thinking about retirement prior to the three-Test rubber with South Africa, although he had given no indication of this until today.
“It just one of these decisions that you just know in your heart how you’re feeling about things when the time is up and I knew that probably before the South Africa series started, to be honest with you, and certainly by the end of the series I was certainly very clear in my mind that it was the time,” he added.
"I first spoke to Andy (Flower) about this a few weeks ago and said I'm considering it and would talk to him at end of the series. By the time I spoke to him again my mind was made up and I think he knew that."
Strauss conceded his decision was partly motivated by his batting form. Until he hit two hundreds versus West Indies in May, he had not reached three figures in a Test since November 2010.
However, he retires with 21 centuries among 7,037 Test runs at an average of 40.91. He also made six ODI tons en route to 4,205 runs at 35.63.
"It's a very tough decision. For me the driver to it all quite frankly was my form with the bat. In truth I haven't batted well enough for a long time now,” he said.
"I think for a captain to perform his role properly, it's important you're not a passenger in the side, but also that people aren't speculating as to whether you should be in the side or not. I think that would have been too big a distraction to the side going forward."
Strauss had some words of wisdom for Cook, who filled in for him as captain during two Tests with Bangladesh in early 2010, sitting to his left at the press conference.
“My advice to Alastair is really savour and enjoy the challenge of captaining your country,” he said. “You’re very fortunate to be given the opportunity to do so.
“Throw yourself into it with everything you’ve got. Manage your time carefully because it is all-encompassing at times, and have no regrets.
“I’ve got every confidence that’s what Alastair will do and I’m absolutely certain, the type of person he is, the type of bloke he is, he’s going to do a great job.”
Asked about his next step, Strauss replied: "That's always a difficult question to answer; I've got some ideas, some things I'd like to get involved in.
"I think long-term I'd like to have some more challenges ahead of me in whatever it is I do, but I'm going to take a bit of time to think about what exactly that means and what that might be.
"And while I'm taking that time I'm looking forward to spending some time with my family and probably getting my golf handicap down a bit as well.
"I would love to stay involved in the game. I'm hugely passionate about the game. I feel like I've got more to offer the game at some stage in the future but in what capacity I've got no idea."