A tough call, but Strauss got it right
Retiring from professional sport after a long career is never an easy decision to make. The timing of a decision of that magnitude is very important. It is always better to bid farewell to the sport one loves a fraction prematurely rather than risk getting pushed out by the powers that be.
Normally the individual involved in this conundrum is the only one who truly knows when retirement is appropriate. It is a strange thing but most successful international sportsmen will tell you that suddenly, one day they woke up and knew their time was up. That is literally what happens. An overpowering feeling comes over one as an individual that makes you realise that the end has come. Ignoring that feeling is foolhardy. It is not a similar feeling to one of disappointment after a setback but rather a realisation that there is nothing more to give.
Andrew Strauss summed it up perfectly when announcing his retirement from all forms of the game this week. He said that he has run his race and he feels that he has made a good decision at the right time. Personally I think Strauss would have let the captaincy go irrespective of the result against South Africa in the recent test series. For some time now Alastair Cook has been waiting in the wings as vice captain.
Strauss may have continued playing if his form was better against South Africa. The biggest contributing factor in the decision that Strauss made was the fact that the runs had dried up for him. He clearly feels now that as a captain and a player he is past his best. International cricket is a ruthless environment and batting at the top of the order is a formidable challenge. One can only meet this challenge successfully if one's form in the particular discipline that one is selected for is beyond reproach. It gets difficult to enjoy the game as a batsman when consistent run-making is no longer forthcoming.
Strauss had an excellent career as a captain and as a player. He was beyond reproach in all departments over a long period. Along with coach Andy Flower he brought an excellent work ethic and attitude into the England team at a time when a change of approach was much needed. The team bought into the Strauss style of leadership.
As a player he was rock solid at the top of the order, forming a good opening partnership with Alastair Cook. Individually Strauss got the best out of his players. He had a difficult bunch to work with at times but found a way to make them buy into the team ethos. Collectively they performed and team England got the desired results.
Team England have shot their bolt for the moment. They are on the way down and rebuilding will be the order of the day under Alastair Cook. They have some difficult series coming up. It will get worse before it gets better for them as they battle to find an answer for the disintegration of a successful playing unit.
They are also attempting to find places for some talented young players in the team. The jury is out on some of these young players and although gifted, they don't appear to be quite in the same class as some of the established players before them who have achieved the desired results at top level.
The relentless Kevin Petersen issue won't go away either and the ECB will have to make a call on that shortly. It is not clear at this early stage where Cook stands on the issue. Will he want the baggage that goes with a Kevin Petersen inclusion while he is trying to build a team and stamp his authority on a group of players very low on confidence? My guess is not for a while.
Tough times are ahead for England. For the first time in a long while Strauss won't have to worry about any of that. I hope he enjoys his retirement. He did a fine job.