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There was more than stats to Andrew Strauss

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Andrew StraussAndrew Strauss retired from international cricket. And as Brett Lee described him, ‘a competitive person with a very strong mind’ leaves a huge void in the English dressing room. Yes, he did play 100 tests and few more ODIs, scored more than 11,000 international runs and led England in 50 tests. But there was something more to him than mere stats could prove. His records might well be surpassed and there would be many who would do better as an opener for England. But it is unlikely that England or for that matter world cricket, could find a man who was as gritty, dignified and an eternal team man. Hence, here’s an attempt to pay tribute to a man who had more than stats across his name.

Grit over elegance

We tend to live in a world of assumptions. No matter what the area of concern is, the only thing that remains constant is the web of assumption. May it be economic theories or may it be mathematical theorems. This same assumption principle has not isolated itself from cricket either. For example- a wicketkeeper is often regarded as the best judge of fielding positions. The same way, the left handed batsmen are often viewed as the flag-bearers of elegance and graceful stroke-play. And like many of those critics who challenge the assumptions (romantics sometimes hate them for that), but mere criticism does not really make them party spoilers or pessimists. In fact, their criticism (constructive, that is) if taken seriously can strengthen the theory or belief.

Now, if the principle can be extended to left handed batsman-ship, then Andrew Strauss surely emerges as one of those constructive critics. He not only challenged the general belief but by being different (gritty and grafty over elegant, graceful and flamboyant) he carved a niche for himself. Hence, it is no surprise why Andrew Strauss found Justin Langer, his senior at the Middlesex and opponent when they played for their respective national teams, his idol or as he likes to put it, as someone he looked up to while growing up. For him, it was Langer’s perseverance and know-how to iron out the shortcomings that were more to look up to than let’s say David Gower’s elegance.

Team of individuals not individuals over team

His batting shared a neat correlation with the way he captained England side. While batting, he did not mind taking a single and give strike to a more attacking or in form batsman, so that the team would maximise their chances to win. Same principle was applied when he led Team England. As they say, the leadership is about coaxing, cajoling and influencing the team members to come up with their best performances. There is no surprise why men with different skills and individuals with altogether different personalities did brilliantly for England. There were the likes of Alastair Cook- low profile yet effective; Jonathan Trott, a visibly detached man with higher consistency ratio; Swann and Broad, outspoken, in your face aggressive men. In addition to them, there were the likes of Anderson, Bell and few others who put in their contributions towards England’s ascendency.

Alternatively, he apparently made it clear that being one’s own person should not precede team’s interests. If one revisits the recent KP saga, one can easily highlight why KP was shown the door. By no means, Strauss doubted KP’s cricketing abilities nor there was any issue with his batting form. But what cost KP his place in the team, was his outbursts that challenged team harmony and unity; the virtues that Strauss made non-negotiable.

Steadfast, dignified and a no-nonsense man

His recent form not only as a captain but also as a batsman was the biggest cause for concern. However, many had thought that Strauss would continue for a bit longer before deciding to hang his cricketing boots but not Strauss. He was regarded as one of the most rational and logical man in the England team and the announcement of the retirement perhaps was a revisit to his status of a ‘no-nonsense’ man.

It is being said that the recent KP saga had taken a serious toll on Strauss that led to his eventual retirement. There was a hush-hush in the media that the KP issue had hastened Strauss’s decision to quit international cricket. The issue could well be debated about in times to come. However, there would not be too many who could challenge Strauss’ dignity or the way he handled himself throughout the tumultuous times in English cricket. The man’s love or as they say, his second nature to remain dignified in the face of adversity made him stand apart from many others. No surprise, why they say they don’t make such men too often.

Well, that quite sums it up. We will no longer see Andrew Strauss in England colours. It would have been a little naïve to deny that there would have been no temptations to continue. But as we have seen it with him before, it was a case of ‘one more potentially selfish moment’ and it was typical of Strauss to turn his back to it. Thank you, Andrew Strauss for keeping the dignity and honesty of the game intact. The cricketing world will miss you.



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