Strauss takes it all in his stride
Posted in England in West Indies 2009
With one hand in his pocket as he strolled casually into the most watched press conference of his career, it was hard to see how Andrew Strauss could have looked more relaxed.
A shy, almost sheepish, grin upon entering the room betrayed the nerves he must have been experiencing ahead of a meeting with the baying media, on the hunt for juicy pieces of information to add to the bones of yesterday’s story.
That astonishing story centred around the resignation of Kevin Pietersen as England skipper, the departure of coach Peter Moores and the installation of Strauss as captain for the tour of the West Indies.
Yet as the dust settled on one of the most tumultuous days English cricket has seen, Strauss gave off the aura of a man not the slightest bit concerned by the situation.
There was even a moment of lightheartedness as Strauss feigned surprise at a camera flash going off nearby as he walked into the Warner Room at Lord's, and there was further evidence that this was a man completely at ease with his surroundings when he began his answer to the first question with a gentle chuckle.
All that was missing was a cigar in his mouth and newspaper under his arm.
Calm in demeanour and earnest and measured in his replies, Strauss maintained his composure despite the clutch of microphones pointing menacingly towards him and a phalanx of photographers crowding his table.
If his desire to consign recent events to the past - “we need to move forward from here” - was as expected as it was sensible, Strauss was refreshingly honest in his assessment of Pietersen, Moores and team dynamic in the past few months.
“He’s obviously got some stuff to deal with at the moment,” he said of his predecessor, who will return to the ranks when England fly out to St Kitts later this month. “I’ve spoken to Kevin, he said he would support me and I truly believe he will do.”
Strauss praised Moores’ integrity while rueing the manner of his departure, and was honest enough to admit the captain-coach axis was creaking during the tour of India: “There were signs that Kevin and Peter weren’t getting on as well as they possibly could do.”
He deserves credit for not simply ignoring the issues which have dominated the sports pages for the past week, yet he also demonstrated his diplomatic skills by cleverly steering the conversation back towards the future as often as he could.
Articulate, popular in the dressing room and respected for his good sense as well as his cricketing ability, Strauss seems to tick the boxes that matter most as a captain at any level.
The circumstances surrounding his appointment may not be ideal - as he is only too happy to admit - but Strauss can take much heart from his previous spell as captain, when he led England to a 2-0 series win over Pakistan in 2006 during Michael Vaughan’s injury-enforced absence.
The manner in which he responded to being dropped from the Test side - he hit a fine 177 after being recalled for the tour of New Zealand in early 2008 - proved his resilience, and twin centuries in the Mohali Test against India last month, at the end of a particularly trying tour, were the mark of a player of immense mental fortitude.
His demeanour may have suggested otherwise, but there can be no doubt that Strauss - one of sport’s more intelligent ambassadors - is fully aware of the difficulties that lie in wait for him and the rest of the England team in the Caribbean and beyond.
As an opening batsman, he has built his reputation on going toe to toe with the world’s quickest bowlers.
And there was something in the manner in which he held the gaze of each and every interrogator under the unforgiving gaze of the media spotlight today that suggests he will not be cowed by this, his greatest challenge.