Cricket Expert & Columnist
The Ashes will test Alastair Cook like never before, says Strauss
Andrew Strauss says that the Ashes will test England captain Alastair Cook like never before.
Last Updated: 10/07/13 8:01am
Together the openers scored a collective 1,769 runs to help power England to Ashes victories in 2009 and 2010/11 under Strauss' leadership.
So how does Sky Cricket's latest addition to the commentary box think Cook is shaping up as captain and will he be able to get the best out of his players? skysports.com asked him...
Has your successor as England captain done a good job so far, Straussy?
Straussy: His form has been phenomenal - he averages close to 70 as captain as opposed to 46 before he took over. It's so important that you are able to lead by example with your performances in your first year as England captain because it helps you get your feet in the door and makes you feel comfortable in your position as leader. If you are not performing well then there are question marks in your own head about whether you can contend with all of the various challenges of the role. So I think Alastair has done the first bit fantastically well.
He's very well respected by the rest of the team - he's a very likeable person and everyone knows how professional he is. That's another really important feather in his cap. The Ashes will pressurise him in a way he hasn't encountered yet. He will have got a taste of it from the Champions Trophy but any series against Australia raises that up a notch. But he's incredibly well suited to the job. He's very calm and phlegmatic - he likes to get away from things when it's appropriate and doesn't get too caught up in the hype and the buzz. That's one of the important attributes you need to have as an England captain because if you do live and breathe the job too much, it becomes impossible to get away from the job and it is bound to affect your performance at some stage.
How inspirational was Andy Flower in your career and how important is his relationship with Cook?
Straussy: Andy is a phenomenal coach but more importantly he is a phenomenal man. It's no surprise that he's respected by everyone in the game - from the way that he carried himself as a player to the way that he coaches the side. He is very respectful of people but challenges them and pushes them hard and he's determined to make sure that when he leaves his job that he leaves the side in the best possible state. I was very lucky to have someone of his calibre working alongside me and I'm sure Alastair feels the same - both in preparation for this series and beyond.
Likewise, Darren Lehmann is very well respected in the game of cricket - he was a phenomenal player in the world game for a long period of time but couldn't really break his way into a strong Australian side. He's still got a really good, shrewd cricket brain and he has started his coaching career really well. So it's a fresh start for Australia. As a coach and a captain you do have a bit of a 'honeymoon period' and his will come right in the middle of an Ashes series, which may just motivate the Australian players enough to see them turn around their run of bad fortune and performances. Is it ideal to change your coach two weeks before the Ashes? Of course not - in fact it's the last thing you want. But Australia obviously felt that they'd reached a stage where it was not sustainable to carry on in the way that they are going.
How will Cook and Flower get the best out of key players like Graeme Swann, James Anderson and Jonathan Trott?
Straussy on: Graeme Swann - I'd give him no responsibility whatsoever. Just allow him to go out and play like it is a club game. I'd also encourage him to be himself in the dressing room. One of the best things that he could do was provide a very fresh, healthy, relaxed and humorous perspective on what we were doing; in a game that can get very stressful and difficult, it's so reassuring to have someone laughing and joking and putting everyone at ease with the way that he goes about his stuff. I was always conscious not to stifle that but also to encourage himself to be himself and play in that manner, because it brought out the best in him.
Straussy on: Jimmy Anderson - Conversely to Swann, Jimmy did thrive on responsibility. He loved the fact that he was leader of the bowling attack - he had that almost paternal role over the rest of the bowlers - and I took a great deal of pleasure in watching him talking to Stuart Broad or Steve Finn about how he would try and get opposition batsmen out. The bowlers' unit is almost a game within a game. I don't profess to know what goes on between the two ears of a bowler - I don't think many people do, to be honest with you, but Jimmy certainly does and he has thrived on that responsibility. We certainly had chats about each other's strengths and weaknesses - batsman to bowler - which was good because it helps you to understand your game a bit better. I think Swanny would have fancied getting me out!
Straussy on: Jonathan Trott - All you have to do with someone like Trotty is help to make him feel appreciated. He's a phenomenal player with such a great natural ability to get in the zone, concentrate for long periods of time and score runs. His run-scoring for England has been incredible over the years and as long as he feels that his efforts and achievements are getting their due, he'll continue to go out and perform for you for the future.
None of this is rocket science - it's just about being honest with people and speaking in a natural manner to them, so they understand what their role is in the side and how much value they add to it. I was certainly lucky as captain to have a huge number of players who added a lot of value time and time again.
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