England v Sri Lanka: Alastair Cook must rebuild team culture, says Andrew Strauss
Last Updated: 08/06/14 1:13pm
England captain Alastair Cook needs to "carve a team in his image" as his new-look side prepares for the Test series against Sri Lanka, according to former national skipper Andrew Strauss.
The Ashes whitewash in Australia during the winter has prompted a sea change at the elite end of English cricket, with Peter Moores returning as head coach and major changes in selection.
England lost the recent one-day international series against Sri Lanka 3-2, but now face their first outing in the five-day game since their Ashes humiliation, with the first Test against the same opponents getting under way at Lord's on Thursday.
"He knows this is his moment to carve a team in his image, to foster a new culture in English cricket," said Sky expert Strauss, writing in The Sunday Times.
"The captain also knows such a task would have been nigh on impossible for him to fulfil with the old campaigners still around."
England have picked three uncapped players in the shape of opener Sam Robson, fast bowler Chris Jordan and Moeen Ali, a batsman who also offers a useful bowling option with his off-spin.
In addition to Kevin Pietersen, who is no longer part of England's plans, Michael Carberry, Jonny Bairstow, Scott Borthwick and Boyd Rankin were all omitted after being in the side which lost the fifth Test against Australia in January, while Graeme Swann has retired and Jonathan Trott is currently out of contention as he continues his recovery from the stress-related condition which ended his Ashes tour prematurely.
Eleven individuals sitting around a dressing room do not add up to much. A group of 11 who are driven, motivated and passionate about a common cause are a different proposition. Cook's job now is to make that transition happen.
"There is a fundamental difference between selecting a team and building one," added Strauss.
"Eleven individuals sitting around a dressing room do not add up to much. A group of 11 who are driven, motivated and passionate about a common cause are a different proposition. Cook's job now is to make that transition happen.
"Cook needs to have difficult conversations with his players to make sure the slate is clean to move forward."
Strauss, who described the two-Test series against Sri Lanka as a "must win" for Cook, said getting England quickly back to winning ways was critical to the success of the new era.
"Anything new, from a car to a relationship, will have a honeymoon period where everything feels perfect, but the bitter taste of defeat or simply the passage of time can quickly erode that utopia," he said.
"The captain will have to show the players he is in it for the long haul, while any victories along the way will suggest his way is working."