Mr. Steady Wins the Race and Other Reasons to be Cheerful
For those of us surprised by the appointment of Moores as coach and Pietersen as captain, the last week has been a tonic. Although the upheaval and recriminations have not been helpful, the results of this 'crisis' will mean England will be in better shape to face the West Indies in a few weeks and Australia in the summer.
Andrew Strauss may not be the most dynamic of characters or captains, but he is exactly what England need at the moment: a steady hand at the helm who can bring everyone together.
Strauss is a well-established member of the team who is known to all the players and whose form has returned, a form that was unaffected by his brief stint as captain in the summer of 2006.
His sanguine demeanour suits the situation as well; the passionate Flintoff and headstrong Pietersen did not sit easily in a dressing-room used to the calm and unflappable Michael Vaughan as their leader. Strauss' quiet authority should bond a team that has been fractured by recent events.
The team can now concentrate on cricket and not personalities. The danger remains one of complacency, however, with the seemingly straightforward task of beating a poor West Indies side on the horizon. It is only this that will deny England a Test series victory, but the one-day series could be a different story.
It is here where Strauss' appointment may cause problems. He has not been in the one-day side for some time now and one of the main reasons Pietersen was given the captaincy ahead of him was the desire for consistent leadership in both forms of the game.
This issue has been overplayed though. Strauss could certainly be picked for the one-day team, but having a different captain in Paul Collingwood is something that has worked in the past.
Nevertheless, England's inconsistent performances in the shorter form of the game continue to cause concern and I expect the one-day series to be keenly fought.
The Test series should see an England win, as their batting and bowling are superior, but they are not as potent as they were in 2004. Bouncy pitches with something in them for the bowlers, like in 2004, will favour England even more.
For the West Indies, both Chris Gayle and Chivnarine Chanderpaul will need to fire in every Test for them to make it a contest.
A good performance in the Caribbean for England should gel the team and its new captain together, ready for the greater challenge of winning back the Ashes.
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