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The end of an era


Well, that’s it. Following the defeat by South Africa, Andrew Strauss has announced at an ECB press conference that he is not just stepping down from the England captaincy but is retiring from all forms of cricket.

“I am extremely proud of everything I have achieved as a cricketer and I have found myself very fortunate to play in an era when some of English cricket's greatest moments have occurred. I have loved every minute of it … I would like to go out on my own terms with my head held high and I think this is the right time.”

As to why this is the right time for him to go, I’ll simply repeat what he said:

“For me the driver to it all quite frankly was my form with the bat. In truth, I haven't batted well enough for a long time now. I think I have run my race.”

A typically honest and pragmatic stance from the man who took England to such heights as would have been deemed impossible by most observers only a few years ago.

Strauss captained England in 50 Tests, winning 24 of them. Without doubt, the highlights of his captaincy will be the Ashes victories of 2009 and (especially) 2010-11, and the 4-0 series whitewash over India that ensured for a time, that England were the top Test cricketing team in the world. He retires after playing in 100 Tests, in which he scored 21 centuries and – despite his recent loss of form – 7,037 runs at an average of just over 40.

Just to show how classy he is, the England players were informed in advance of his decision by letter; so much more dignified than a text message. The players’ response was to send him 100 bottles of wine, a sign of the very high regard in which he was held in the dressing-room.

Personally, I’d have liked to have seen him stay on as a player at the very least. He leaves a very large gap at the top of the batting order; no doubt speculation as to who will be tasked with filling this gap will be rife over the next few days.

As for where this leaves Kevin Pietersen, only time will tell. Andy Flower is still the coach (a sign, perhaps, that the tactical conservatism that has stifled England against quality opposition may continue), and KP – who has been busy scoring a century for Surrey over the past couple of days – will need to come clean about those text messages and convince both Flower and the new captain, Alastair Cook, of his commitment to the English cause.

Cook has been the ODI captain for over a year now and also captained England in the Test series in Bangladesh in the winter of 2009-10. But nothing he has done so far can prepare him for the task of leading England in India.

The new era starts in Ahmedabad on 15th November.

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