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Don’t judge the captains on results only, says Strauss

‘The urge to lead has to come from within’
EXCLUSIVE
Andrew Strauss

London: Andrew Strauss, a successful former captain of England (back-to-back Ashes wins), spoke to The Telegraph on Saturday afternoon.

Excerpts...

Leaving the captaincy and quitting the game at the same time, in August 2012...

I could have continued as a batsman, but I thought that wouldn’t be right... It would be easier for Alastair Cook to settle down if his predecessor wasn’t also in the dressing room. It becomes harder for a new captain if the previous incumbent is still around. It’s best to start with a blank sheet.

Captaincy...

There are different ways of captaining. No two individuals are the same and no two captains are alike. The point is that you can’t manufacture a captain. You can’t make captaincy happen. Once in the job, you have to find out what works best for you and proceed in that direction. Work with your strengths and make sure you have people around you to help with your weaknesses.

Having to be born a captain...

Not necessarily. What I mean is that you can’t have a reluctant captain... The urge to lead has to come from within.

Awareness factor...

Can’t be emphasised enough. Captains need to understand themselves and need to quickly grasp what works for them.

Captaincy not limited to the field...

Of course not. Critical is the way a captain talks to his men and the environment he creates... He needs to get the best out of the 10 others in his team. If he doesn’t, he’s not doing his job... There’s a limited period for the captaincy.

Captains having a shelf life...

I think, yes... It depends on the country... In England, maybe because of the scrutiny, a captain doesn’t go on and on... Perhaps, in India and Pakistan as well... It depends. I did under four years, pretty much the same as some of the others.

Graeme Smith keeping the captaincy (in Tests at least) for 11 years...

(Smiles) Yes, once in a while, somebody like Smith does come along. When that happens, you take your hat off to him. Smith did buck the trend. He got the job when very young (22) and could grow into it.

Judging captains...

Don’t judge them on results only, even though results are important. You must also get to assess what a captain does behind the dressing room’s doors.

Captains having to lead from the front...

It gets difficult if you don’t perform. When you do, you walk taller. It’s not impossible to captain even when the form isn’t there... Nasser Hussain showed that... But in Alastair’s case, one is affecting the other. It’s the chicken and egg situation, you don’t know whether it’s the batting which is affecting the captaincy or if it’s the other way. Bottom line is that it’s an issue of confidence.

His style of captaincy...

I never asked anybody to do something I wasn’t willing to do myself. I focused quite a bit on strategy... The kind of cricket we wanted to play, how the team should go forward... That was my strength... We looked to strangle the opposition.

Difference between strategy and tactics...

Tactics concern field placements and so on. Strategy is looking at the bigger picture and planning to take the team forward.

No.1 moment as captain...

Winning the Ashes in Australia, in 2010-11. The win at home, in 2009, also meant a lot... England becoming No. 1 in Test cricket as well.

Looking up to a captain...

You can’t copy any captain, you have to be your own man... Have to do it your way. Sure, there could be influences. I learnt a lot playing under Michael Vaughan, an excellent captain who was laid back and calm... I also learnt from Stephen Fleming at Middlesex. Actually, I learnt from captaining Middlesex... Learnt from mistakes.

Leadership...

Basically, leadership is getting the best out of the people around you. In cricket, any captain who gets his players to perform a little bit better is a leader.

Cook as captain...

(Fondly) Alastair has some very good attributes... For one, he’s highly respected around the dressing room... He’s admired and players want to follow him... Alastair’s a calm person who takes to the highs and lows very well... Then, he’s a quick learner. As I’ve told you, right now, it’s about confidence. Alastair must pretend he’s confident even if he isn’t... It’s dangerous for a captain to lose confidence.

Message to Cook...

Regain your self-belief. Once you make decisions, you’ve got to be committed to them 100 per cent.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni as captain...

Dhoni’s done some amazing things for India, but I don’t know how his mind works. He’s handled the pressure exceedingly well and looks comfortable in the job. The innings (91 not out) he played in the 2011 World Cup final was that of a leader. That was leadership at its finest.

Rapport between the captain and coach...

They may have arguments behind closed doors, but it should remain that way... A good relationship is important for any team to move forward. Each needs to appreciate the other person’s point of view.

Thoughts for the administrators...

Never undermine a captain. There’s a thin line between undermining and eventually sacking a captain.

Advice for young captains...

(A) Have a clear idea of what you want to do with your team... (B) You should be able to sell your vision to teammates... (C) Lead by example... (D) Don’t agonise over the decisions made. Rather, go out and back them. If you don’t commit yourself to those decisions, the ones behind you will hesitate.

Finally, his take on the flare-up between Ravindra Jadeja and James Anderson, in Trent Bridge...

We don’t know what exactly happened... From the outside, it seems a messy affair.