England look to Cook for Bangladesh tour

Captain Andrew Strauss and seam bowler James Anderson have been rested for England’s forthcoming tour of Bangladesh. Current vice-captain Alastair Cook will lead the team for the Test and one-day series in Bangladesh, whilst Paul Collingwood will skipper the side in two Twenty20 internationals against Pakistan which precede it in Dubai.

It is all very well to rest key players who may be jaded, but does this represent a lack of ambition by England? Moreover, does it show a lack of respect for their Bangladeshi opponents? Strauss has been one of England’s most consistent batsmen over the past few years, despite a brief blip in which he worked on his game and came back a stronger player. We forget that Strauss has not been England captain for long and is still maturing into this role; to say that he will be rested means he will miss out on captaining in a series that may prove more challenging than many people anticipate against a developing Bangladesh side.

Strauss’ previous break from Test cricket was a successful one as he came back into the England team in the 2008 Test series against New Zealand and hit a career best 177. In this respect then, a break from the game may be the best thing for Strauss who had encountered difficulties in the recent series in South Africa, averaging just 24 in eight innings. A break from the game may see Strauss find his past consistently good form that he showed after acquiring the captaincy.

Furthermore, we must not forget that the past twelve months have been extremely testing for the England side: Strauss has had to contend with home and away series against the West Indies, followed by an Ashes triumph against Australia and a tough Test series in South Africa which England were lucky to escape from with a 1-1 draw, both very notable achievements. England’s later 2010 schedule includes the visit of both Bangladesh and Pakistan in the summer, and ends with the defence of the Ashes in Australia. England are also involved in the ICC World Cup in the subcontinent over February and March 2011 as they seek a first one-day international tournament victory. It is important that Strauss is fit for these challenges and giving him a rest is a sensible way to ensure that he is mentally prepared.

The decision not to send Strauss to Bangladesh is the right choice, both for the welfare of the player and the future development of the team. Alastair Cook has been given an opportunity to see whether he can be Strauss’s natural heir. In omitting Strauss and inviting Cook to lead, England are able to rest their key batsman whilst giving the young Cook an opportunity to learn the ropes of captaincy, leaving England in good stead for the future. It also leaves a vacant spot for a new batsman to prove his worth on the international stage, most probably Hampshire opening batsman Michael Carberry, who has impressed on the county circuit for a number of years.

James Anderson’s absence is also understandable: he has been left out so that he can receive treatment on a recurring knee injury before the World Twenty20 tournament in the West Indies in April. Anderson has become an increasingly reliable performer for England and is now an integral part of both the Test and one-day sides. His ability to move the ball both ways will be missed, although conditions will probably not be very favourable for swing bowlers in Bangladesh, with slow, spinning and dusty wickets anticipated. It is not yet known who will replace Anderson, but it will give an opportunity that will help create healthy competition within the side. Both Ajmal Shahzad and James Tredwell, both uncapped, have been called into the Test side and will relish the opportunity to stake a claim for a permanent place as part of England’s bowling attack.

So, we should view England’s selection policy in a positive, rather than a negative light. Firstly, Andrew Strauss has the chance to rest, recharge and come back a better and more focussed player. Secondly, new faces in the squad will keep all the players on their toes, creating a competitive atmosphere in which the team should flourish. And finally, it shows that we have enough talented players that can step up to the international level, displaying confidence in the depth of the squad. The future, possibly in Alastair Cook’s hands, looks bright for English Test cricket.


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