There has been a lot of discussion since the end of England’s tour to South Africa about Andrew Strauss’s decision to stand down from the captaincy for the trip to Bangladesh in March.
My own view is that he should have gone there, even if only to play in the two back-to-back Test matches and the warm-up game that precedes them; that would mean he was in and out of Bangladesh in three weeks, with good breaks of five or six weeks either side of that, as he is not going to be involved in the ICC World Twenty20 in late April and early May.
Strauss could then have eased himself back into first-class cricket with Middlesex, in order to prepare himself for England’s two home Tests with Bangladesh in late May and early June.
I know there are significant pressures, both professional and personal, in being England cricket captain, but it is a short career at the top of the game and, at 33 in early March, Strauss should be making the most of his time in charge.
On the other hand, of course, there is a hugely busy schedule of matches coming up for England this summer and next winter – including the Ashes in Australia and the World Cup – and he needs to be ready for those.
The bottom line, really, is that it is down to Strauss and the England team director, Andy Flower, to manage the whole squad – including the captain – and to make sure that the best team is available, and fit, for the biggest matches.
Strauss is a sensible bloke, and I have a lot of time for Flower, who knows the game inside out and has a great cricket brain, and so I am sure they have looked at the medium and long term and will have their plans for that.
Four Tests against Bangladesh – two away and two home – over the next few months do give the England management an opportunity to see what a few other players can do at that level – as well as, initially, seeing how Alastair Cook copes with the captaincy in Bangladesh and on tour generally.
Strauss’s absence from the top of the order will give another fringe batsman – Michael Carberry in all probability – the chance to underline his claims.
Carberry has worked hard to improve his game during a career with three different counties, and full marks to him for doing that so impressively.
Jimmy Anderson’s need to rest will mean another quicker bowler – possibly Liam Plunkett and perhaps Yorkshire’s Ajmal Shahzad, who I have heard a lot of good things about – getting some Test match game time. And, if England opt for two spinners, then James Tredwell could get his chance alongside Graeme Swann.
All that is good, although I don’t think England will have it all their own way in Bangladesh. They are an improving side, with some good batsmen and some capable spinners who will relish bowling in their home conditions.
It is in seam bowling that Bangladesh struggle, although they may have Mashrafe Mortaza back from a lengthy injury absence by the time England play their two Tests in mid-March.
I believe it will be lot tougher than people think, for instance, for England to bowl Bangladesh out on their pitches. Swann is now a world-class bowler, and it will be interesting to see how Tredwell goes if he wins a place alongside him in the Tests.
I’m not sure if Tredwell puts enough on the ball, either in terms of spin or pace and dip, but we will learn a lot about him if he bowls in tandem with Swann.
Adil Rashid is clearly not ready yet for Test cricket, and needs to bowl a lot of overs with Yorkshire this summer. You must not rush leg spinners, in particular, and I am happy for him to develop his talent in first-class cricket and with the England Lions.
Meanwhile, I reckon England would do well to rest a couple of senior players from the two Tests against Bangladesh at home