England captain Andrew Strauss needs to rekindle Test form
If Andrew Strauss wants to decide his own Test future then he must start scoring runs on a regular basis, writes Harry Kemble
If Andrew Strauss was not aware of the irony of the choice of sponsors for the Test series between Sri Lanka and England a week ago, he will certainly be now.
Just Retirement, an equity release firm, promise on their website that “everyone deserves a just retirement.”
Strauss will hope that, despite the poor showings from England and himself over the winter, he will be able to decide when he leaves the Test arena rather than the selectors.
The 35-year-old has failed to score a Test hundred since Brisbane in the first Test of the Ashes – now 16 Tests ago.
However, for a player once renowned for converting starts into a ton – he turned 10 of his first 16 fifties into centuries at Test level – he now struggles to translate 20s and 30s into a half-century – often giving his wicket away.
The second innings of the Galle Test were a prime example of this worrying trait, which resembles a player at the beginning of their career rather than one coming to the end of it.
Sitting on 26, the hard work had been done. He had negated the new ball, the field had been pushed back and his eye trained to see the revolutions on the ball when the spinners came on.
Yet inexplicably, the former Durham University graduate shimmied down the pitch and chipped Rangana Herath to mid-wicket.
Frankly, it was a shot that lacked conviction and suggested that even he did not know what he was trying to do.
The dismissal was the seventh time in 14 Test innings that he fell in the 20s and 30s – a run stretching back to the India series last summer.
Critics point at the stop-start nature of England skipper’s career these days since his personal decision to quit one-day internationals after the World Cup – he said he wanted to spend more time with his family.
With more limited-overs matches wedged into the international fixture list, Strauss’ exit from the one-day arena means lengthy periods away from the game making him struggle to find form.
Strauss was even forced to make a guest appearance for Somerset in their tour match against India last June in a bid to prepare for the Test series.
However, with a weak West Indies team arriving in May, the alarm bells should not be ringing yet.
England’s dominance will undoubtedly return back on home soil. With the array of quality fast bowlers at their disposal, they should have no problem in favourable conditions.
Even if England relinquish their number one ranking by losing next week’s Test in Colombo, Strauss’ position is not yet threatened.
But he must address this major fault, which is clearly a mental one, of not converting his starts into scores.
Otherwise, Strauss risks facing an enforced retirement after serving his country so well. The selectors will not be patient forever – nor should they be.