Rex Clementine in the Island, 15 March 2011
Bungling by Sri Lankan cricket officials has reduced the national cricket team’s Test series against England into a two match affair, contrary to the traditional three match fixture, but nevertheless there’s all the more reason for Sri Lanka’s contest against the tourists to be looked forward to, as England are currently the number one ranked team in the world They have been expertly led in the last couple of years by Andrew Strauss, who became the first English captain since Mike Gatting in 1986 to win an Ashes series down under. Although England are the world’s top team, there’s some pressure on Strauss, after his side was whitewashed 3-0 by Pakistan in the UAE. Strauss has been in Colombo for nearly two weeks now with England’s batting group, trying to adjust to Sri Lankan conditions and the England captain spoke to the media for the first time, yesterday. Here are the excerpts of Andrew Strauss’ talk with the media.
Question: You have been here in Colombo for a while now and how have your preparations gone ahead of the contests?
Strauss: One of the advantages for those of us who were not involved in the ODIs (against Pakistan), is that we had the opportunity to come here early and because it was a small group, we were able to be specific and focused and get a lot done, both in terms of cricket skills preparation, as well as physical preparation. I suppose in some way you feel a little bit ahead than you normally feel at this stage of a tour. The challenge now is to put preparation into practice on the pitch.
Question: Talking of your preparation, has it been heavily based on playing spin?
Strauss: No. We are very conscious that seam actually plays quite a part here and on the first day of the Test, the wicket obviously nips around a bit. Reverse swing is always a danger as well. To focus solely on spin would be a mistake in my book. One of the things we really want to make sure is that we are not surprised by anything during the series, whether it’s the heat or whether it’s the condition of the wicket. We need to be prepared prior to that first Test match. It’s a short series and if you get behind, it’s obviously hard to come back.
Question: Under your captaincy, England lost the Test series to Pakistan and soon after that went on to win the limited overs series. How does it feel to come back and take over the reigns of the side once again, when the team has done well under a different captain?
Strauss: I thought it was an outstanding effort by Cook and the rest of the guys to come back and win the ODI series against Pakistan. The One Day team took a couple of big strides forward over the couple of weeks. They picked up confidence levels as well. It gives everyone a bit of a spring in their step. And hopefully, it allows us to put the Test series against Pakistan to bed to a certain extent and allows us to move on. It was a fantastic effort from them and the reality of international cricket is that what you do in the last series has no real consequences to what you do in the next series. It’s important that we focus and start this series well.
Question: With a different captain in the UAE for the ODIs, the team would have got into some sort of mindset and does that have an adverse effect when another captain takes on the mantle, in a different form of the game?
Strauss: I don’t understand that mindset and it has never bothered me. All what I wanted was the England cricket team to do well and the reason why we have separate captains is that it allows each of us to concentrate on one form of the game and really add some energy, enthusiasm and motivation when you take over. I am delighted for Cook. He has had a tough introduction into the ODI captaincy and it’s great to see his batting and captaincy develop so well. I want to use the momentum he has gained over the back end of the tour of the UAE to help us find a way forward in this series.
Question: You managed just one half-century in six innings in the Test series against Pakistan. How much are you looking forward to getting some runs under your belt?
Strauss: Absolutely. One of the frustrating things about the UAE tour was that I felt that I was coming to some decent nick at the end of the tour and I need to reconnect with that. Clearly you have to lead from front. It’s important for me to set the tone and get the runs.
Question: In that last Test against Pakistan, you seemed to be using your feet a lot more and is that something that you would be trying to do here as well?
Strauss: In the UAE we were all forced to face a couple of issues. When we started focusing on it, we all made strides. One of the difficulties about international cricket is that you become protective of your game, if it has worked for you over a period of time. It gets to a point where if you need to change something, it’s quite an important step forward. Once we get to that point and look to change things, we tend to play spinners better. We need to build on that over the next couple of weeks.
Question: Your thoughts on a two Test series?
Strauss: I don’t think it’s ideal, but we don’t do the schedules. There obviously are a number of reasons why we have got a two Test series here. Clearly, in a two Test series you can’t afford to get behind. You’ve got to be on the ball from ball one.
Question: You must have looked into how Sri Lanka went about things during the recent tri-nation series in Australia?
Strauss: Yes, a little bit. Obviously, these are different formats of the game. They probably look settled now than they have looked for a while. We know the quality they have got in their dressing room and we know it’s not going to be an easy series by any means.
Question: Despite being in the international scene for almost 10 years now, your experience here in Sri Lanka seems to be thin.
Strauss: I have been out here a couple of times before. You always enjoy new challenges. In a lot of ways, Sri Lanka is a different place to play your cricket. The heat and humidity are different from other places in the world.