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Sunday, 24 January 2010

BBC Sport - Cricket - Jonathan Agnew column

Jonathan Agnew column

By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

The decision to rest England captain Andrew Strauss for the Bangladesh tour, which the England and Wales Cricket Board media release stated was the decision of the selectors rather than it being his choice, will not be universally popular.

Clearly, if Strauss wanted to lead the tour, he would be doing so and because he does not feature in England's Twenty20 set up, his next engagement for England is not until 27 May.

Cook appears to be Strauss's most likely successor, but badly needs experience

Of course there is a hectic schedule to come, with Tests and one-day internationals against Bangladesh and Pakistan and a wholly unnecessary one-day series against Australia.

The winter Ashes series and the World Cup then follow and that is the reason for giving Strauss this breathing space - not because he needs a rest now but because he and the selectors believe it will benefit him later in the year.

However, Strauss said after England's heavy defeat in the final Test against South Africa the team needed to improve, not least in the batting department where a distinctly out of sorts Kevin Pietersen needs some TLC and a return to form.

It is the captain's task to mould the team, and Strauss will not be there to do so: something some of the other players in the group might also resent.

James Anderson is a different case entirely. His right knee has been troubling him for some time now, and it is entirely sensible to get him back to fitness before the summer starts.

At least it will give us a chance to assess Alastair Cook's ability as a leader and a strategist. He appears to be Strauss's most likely successor, but badly needs experience at the helm.

Strauss is out of touch with the bat, how is he going to improve his form by not playing?

The selectors might have gone down the easy route of placing Paul Collingwood in charge but that would have meant this opportunity would be missed.

Michael Carberry is set to gain the most from the captain's absence in that he is probably going to open the batting with Cook, while Yorkshire folk speak in glowing terms of Ajmal Shahzad, the young pace bowler whose reverse swing should be successful in Bangladesh.

His team-mate, Adil Rashid has been dropped from both squads: an admission he is not ready yet to bowl at this level. He needs to play some cricket to learn the complicated skills associated with bowling leg spin, rather than carrying the drinks, which has been his role in South Africa.

BBC Sport - Cricket - Jonathan Agnew column

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