After a hugely disappointing Test series with South Africa England captain Andrew Strauss has retired from all forms of cricket. A culmination of different problems have led to the retirement, with the main reason being the opening batsman's lack of form against quality bowling attacks. He struggled in the sub-continent over the winter after not scoring many runs in the home Tests against India, but two centuries earlier this summer against the West Indies suggested a return to his best. The pace attack of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander proved to be a bridge too far for Strauss as he scored just 107 runs in six innings with a measly average of 17.83. The biggest problem was his failure to convert starts into anything meaningful with four scores of 20+ and a highest effort of only 37.
It was not just his form that forced him out of the England set-up. An apparent rift with star-batsman Kevin Pietersen involving derogatory texts sent by the 32-year-old about Strauss to the South Africa team resulted in Pietersen being dropped for the crucial third and final Test. England subsequently lost the match and the world number one ranking by a mere 51-run margin. The Surrey player was sorely missed and the fall-out may have been the last straw for captain Strauss. Former England captain Michael Vaughan said: "He said it was his form and that was also my main concern when I was thinking about whether to retire. Then there was the Kevin Pietersen situation. I don't think it had a massive impact but I think it adds to it. It was probably the tipping point for Andrew to make the decision to leave the game."
Despite his gloomy exit from the sport, Strauss has been one of England's best servants over the last decade. He finished his career only one hundred off the all-time England Test record with 21 tons, as well an impressive tally of 7037 runs. His average of 40.91 was tainted somewhat by his recent form but he produced many match-turning innings for his side over the years. Overall his captaincy was excellent for English cricket and he formed a magnificent partnership with Zimbabwean coach Andy Flower. In his first match in permanent charge back in spring 2009 his men slumped to 51 all out in the West Indies and went on to lose the series 1-0.
Since then he has helped transform a floundering outfit into one of the top squads in the world with highlights including consecutive Ashes wins and the 4-0 whitewash of India a year ago to take the world number one ranking. Although he might not be needed any longer his contribution to English cricket should never be underestimated.
England have not suddenly become a bad side overnight, it was just that South Africa were on the top of their game for the whole of the series while England were off-colour. The new world number one cricketing nation boast an excellent team, however Strauss's former charges should never be written off. Fellow opening batsman and ODI skipper Alastair Cook has already been named as the new captain as the ECB look to him to lead the new generation. 22-year-old Jonny Bairstow hit 95 and 54 in the final Test while James Taylor has also found his way into the batting line-up. Both of these players look set to keep their positions now, even if Kevin Pietersen is recalled.
England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke has said that the ECB will hold 'behind closed doors' talks with the batsman over a return to the side. The South-African born player has looked in excellent shape recently with scores of 234*, 42, 149, 12 and 163 in his last five first-class outings. A return to Tests does not look far away and Clarke said: "The talks are going to take place behind closed doors because there has been too much in the public domain. These matters need to be dealt with by the captain, head coach and national selector."
Having Pietersen back in the top-order will make a massive difference to England and Cook should fit into the calm, assured role that Strauss once assumed with relative ease. It has been a difficult couple of weeks for England that was topped off as they surrendered their world number one ODI ranking to the Proteas yesterday after an 80-run defeat. They still have three matches to bounce back in that series and have a busy winter ahead of them. It is still unknown whether KP will play in England's World T20 defence while Captain Cook's first assessment is as tough as it can come; four Tests in India.
Flower's men do have plenty of potential to add to their already strong squad and proudly boast one of the best bowling attacks in the world. The top order of Cook, Trott and Pietersen is one that will be feared by many while the young talent of Taylor and Bairstow should compliment the experience of Ian Bell in the middle order. There are still more great times to come for England after a recent sticky patch, but the job that Andrew Strauss did will never be forgotten.