‘He’s too close to the team.’ ‘How can he make decisions about blokes who he’s played with?’ ‘Isn’t it merely jobs for the boys?’ ‘The team are struggling and need someone from outside’. So they said about Darren Lehmann in summer 2013.
‘He’s too close to the team.’ ‘How can he make decisions about blokes who he’s played with?’ ‘Isn’t it merely jobs for the boys?’ ‘The team are struggling and need someone from outside’. So they’re saying about Andrew Strauss in summer 2015.
Spot any difference?
In truth there are deviations but broadly speaking the two appointments were one and the same. An international team seemingly in a bit of a mess and in need of some stability and corrective guidance.
Yes, Lehmann and Strauss have slightly contrasting job titles on their contracts but thematically the paths were, and are, similar.
It all comes down to outside perception. Lehmann the link with a successful past, a no-nonsense character who understood Australian cricket and would get under-performing players back on the straight and narrow with an old-school approach.
Strauss the link with a successful past, but privately-educated, a symbol of all that is wrong with the English administration, a man who won’t be able to make the tough calls and will just allow a rotten system to continue.
Both populist opinion and while an argument could be made for both, neither are necessarily correct.
Lehmann was a bit of a punt, he had no coaching experience at the very top level and he wasn’t long out of the game.
Strauss is a bit of a punt, he has no administrative experience and he isn’t long out of the game.
Both were a potential step in the wrong direction, but hindsight now shows Lehmann’s ascension to be something of a masterstroke and to judge Strauss after next to no time in the role is a touch hasty.
As with Lehmann, Strauss has inherited – not created, that is an important factor – a listing vessel, albeit an administrative rather than playing one, but stating that he’s not up to it after a few admittedly calamitous days is premature.
One of the ironies of Strauss’ appointment is the questioning of his balls for the job with no evidence in support. In effect, to say he’s a company man and nothing more is to question his integrity with, you guessed it, no evidence.
The sacking of Peter Moores was needlessly shabby and the line drawn under Kevin Pietersen’s England career the latest development in an increasingly tiresome soap opera, but both were decisions that needed to be made.
You can’t, on one hand, ask for decisiveness and then criticise when that is forthcoming. If Strauss is to learn anything from his initial exchanges it is the need for an effective PR department (no laughing at the back).
Lehmann, courtesy of the 2013 Ashes series, was able to assess what he had, decide in which direction they needed to go, and the results followed.
That is the position England now find themselves in. For all the negativity that is floating about, the Test team, unlike their one-day counterparts, aren’t in a desperate state.
Doom and gloom, especially after such a dismal World Cup, was inevitable once the West Indies weren’t seen off, yet that came down to an hour of witless batting and not an utter breakdown in performance. Such are the margins.
As was pointed out by many a couple of years ago, Australia paid for a couple of poor passages of play in England and once some perspective was applied it was clearly not all a mess.
Strauss is nobody’s fool and it would be wise to recognise what he achieved with a team that came under his control in the midst of chaos created by a batsman (no prizes) deciding that a change in coach (the same) needed to be handed his unemployment papers.
Given some time and a sort-of blank canvas on which to work, Strauss may well be the man English cricket needed, just as Lehmann has proved with the Australians.
But with all that’s gone on, I hope he’s come armed with a thick skin.