TWO-TIME Ashes-winning England captain Andrew Strauss brought an abrupt end to his reign yesterday, but insisted his sudden retirement from all cricket had been driven by his own struggles as a batsman rather than the dark shadow cast by another, Kevin Pietersen.
Strauss, who had made just one Test century since November 2010, said he preferred to step aside for Alastair Cook before questions over whether he still merited his place in the team grew louder and while the 35-year-old’s triumphs remained fresh in the memory.
His 100th and final Test, last week’s series-clinching defeat to South Africa, was played amid the distraction of Pietersen’s enforced exile from the England set-up, yet he maintained his differences with the Surrey star had “not in any way” influenced his decision.
“It’s a very tough decision. The driver to it all quite frankly was my form with the bat. In truth I haven’t battled well enough for a long time now,” Strauss said.
“I think for a captain to perform his role properly, it’s important you’re not a passenger in the side, but also that people aren’t speculating as to whether you should be in the side or not. I think that would have been too big a distraction to the side going forward.
“I’ve been speaking about it for a while. I first spoke to [England coach] Andy [Flower] about it prior to the Kevin Pietersen incident rearing its head – it just hasn’t been a consideration at all. I said was considering it and would talk to him at end of the [South Africa] series. By the time I spoke to him again my mind was made up and I think he knew that.”
Strauss acknowledged that Pietersen text messaging friends in the South African team with disparaging comments about him had created “a difficult issue” and refused to be drawn on whether his departure would make it easier for Pietersen to return.
The Middlesex opener called his retirement “a hugely sad moment” but said the South Africa series, in which a 2-0 defeat would see England lose their No1 Test ranking, had long been earmarked as “a crossroads moment”.
Strauss, who took over as skipper in 2009 following Pietersen’s own ill-fated spell, led England in 50 Tests and enjoyed a win rate of 48 per cent, second only to Michael Vaughan. He retained the Ashes with victory in Australia last year, a moment he described as the highlight of his 14-year career.
As a batsman he scored 7,037 Test runs at an average of 40.91, with 21 centuries, placing him ninth on England’s all-time list. He also won 124 one day international caps, hitting six tons, and four Twenty20 caps.
England Cricket managing director Hugh Morris reiterated that talks with Flower and Pietersen would take place “in due course”, with a view to a possible rapprochement. He added: “We are where we are and we will be seeking those discussions and they will be behind closed doors.”
Strauss, who made his England debut in a 2003 ODI, said he would “love to stay in the game”, although “in what capacity I’ve no idea”, adding that he would seek out “more challenges” and had “some things I’d like to get involved in”.
Middlesex debut in 1998, scoring 83 in his maiden first class innings
Makes England debut in 2003 ODI against Sri Lanka, scoring just three in defeat in Dambulla
Scores 112 and 83 on Test debut against New Zealand in May 2004
Two centuries help England to win the 2005 Ashes series
Stands in as captain for 5-0 ODI whitewash of South Africa and Test series win over Pakistan in 2006
Dropped fror 2007 winter tour but wins back Test place in 2008
Succeeds Pietersen as captain in 2009 and scores 474 runs as England regain the Ashes
Retains Ashes in 2011 and leads England to No1 Test ranking for first time with series win over India
August 2012: England lose No1 ranking and Strauss quits all cricket