Defining moment looms for under-fire Strauss
The English press can always be guaranteed to add to the downfall of their national team when the going gets tough. They are good front runners but when their national teams start to struggle they don’t hesitate in putting in the boot.
They do this on an individual and collective level. There was never any doubt that after the humiliating defeat at the hands of the Proteas the England players and management were going to get their fair share of criticism.
It was also inevitable that captain Andrew Strauss was going to be the focal point of the negative publicity. South African teams have seen off the two previous English captains. First there was Nasser Hussein and then Michael Vaughan. The question being bandied about in press circles in England is whether Strauss would be the third England captain in a row to vacate the hot seat following a test series against South Africa. From an English point of view, this is not helpful.
Hussein and Vaughan's situations were remarkably similar. Both were coming to the end of their respective careers as leaders and players when they took on South Africa. Both had ready-made successors in the ranks to take over. Hussein had Vaughan and Vaughan of course had Strauss. The only difference in the current situation is that Strauss is not as far gone as a player as the other two were before losing the captaincy.
Strauss is still perfectly capable of making runs at international level. The problem is he has Alistair Cook standing by to take over the captaincy should things continue to go pear shaped. This situation is never ideal. Cook and Strauss may be good friends and opening partners, but Strauss would only be too aware of the fact that Cook is next in line. Cook has already taken over the one-day leadership. He is highly regarded in English cricket circles as a player and as a potential leader.
South Africa will be only too aware of this situation. They will see this as a potential weakness in the English armoury and therefore a real target to exploit. They will try and put Strauss under enormous pressure. If the Proteas can crack the English captain at Headingley, their job of clinching the series during the second test already will be made a lot easier.
Strauss of course can emerge from this challenge to his leadership with immense credit if the scores runs in the test and manages to turn around the fortunes of his team. Should England bounce back and win the test Strauss will be able to determine his own exit when he is ready.
The second test will be a defining moment for both Strauss and his England team. The odds are heavily stacked against them. I know whose position I would rather be in going into this test. It is going to be a fascinating few days at Headingley.