England’s victory in the second ODI against Pakistan lifted them to the No.2 spot in the one-day international ranking. Whether they stay up for there for long is another matter altogether, but for a team considered as perennial underachievers, this is quite a high. Having said that their steady climb shouldn’t surprise any cricket loyalist since this team had left behind the baggage of the 90s — when they were publicly mortified time and again for underperforming — and renewed itself in recent times. With West Indies showing no signs of improvement and Bangladesh and Zimbabwe still languishing at the bottom of the pool, England’s resurgence should see a rise in the number of competitive games.
The most significant change for the English side has come at the top of the pecking order. With two wise men as captain and coach in the form of Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower, the team is in safe hands for a start. And so the turbulent phase that preceded it during the Pietersen-Moores era must be viewed as a blessing in disguise. Both Andrew and Andy are no-nonsense men, a quality evident in their approach to the game, which is slowly but surely gripping the other members of the side as well.
Things haven’t come easy for either Strauss or Flower, which is all the more reason why they are so resolute to their cause. Till a couple of seasons back the England skipper was unsure of his place in the squad. But, he has risen like a Phoenix from the Ashes and now commands the respect of most. Until very recently, the left-hander’s slot in the ODI side too was under question. There were doubts as to whether he would indeed be a part of the World Cup squad. However, Strauss has more than answered his critics, with two match-winning hundreds in three games. His play may not be ideally suited to the shorter format, but the improvements he has made in his game have been proficient.
On the other hand, Flower would have been desperate for something competitive following his county stint, which wouldn’t have presented him with much of a challenge as compared to his international experience. As so, ever since taking over the reigns of England coach, he has looked every inch the proper man for the task. What further binds Strauss and Flower is the fact that they have similar approaches, both to the game and as individuals – that of keeping it basic and simple. And this work ethic has been rewarded by some memorable victories in recent times.
Also unlike Pietersen, Strauss isn’t a charismatic figure and so the others also get their fair share of limelight. This is not to say that the former was a bad captain. However, things can work both ways. In England’s, they needed a steady hand to guide them and, other than Paul Collingwood, he was the best man for the job. Pietersen could lead from the front, but his flamboyance was fraught with risks, which has culminated in him being left out of the side.
Even as the Strauss-Flower partnership has had a major hand in the resurgence of England, there have been a number of others who have played their part too – be it Eoin Morgan as the finisher in the middle, James Anderson as the strike bowler or Jonathan Trott as the calming influence at the top. On current form, this bunch of united men led by Strauss-Flower seems destined for great things. Of course, their biggest test is yet to come – The Ashes. Until then, let them enjoy the winning feeling.
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