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Strauss invaluable to England despite lack of runs - Vaughan

George Dobell
April 25, 2012 « Abramovich urged to give Di Matteo permanent job | Chartbeat test »
England captain Andrew Strauss has the backing of his predecessor Michael Vaughan © AFP
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Michael Vaughan has dismissed talk of dropping Andrew Strauss from England's Test team as "ridiculous" and insisted that his worth as a captain out-weighed any concerns over a lack of runs. While Vaughan, a former England Test captain, accepted that Strauss "needs a big score" and that judged simply as a batsman his place would be in jeopardy, he expressed confidence that Strauss' technique remains up to the task of opening the batting in Test cricket.

Strauss has scored just one century in his last 50 Test innings - and none since November 2010 - and has averaged 26 in the last calendar year, leading to speculation about his position during England's series in Sri Lanka, which was drawn 1-1.

"As a captain, it's ridiculous to talk about Strauss' position," Vaughan told ESPNcricinfo. "You only get better as a captain: tactically and management wise. I'd be a better captain now than I was when I retired. You're more mature. You've seen more situations. And that's what captaincy is: it's a man-management role.

"What Strauss needs now is a score. He needs a big score. He's playing all right: his feet are going quite nicely and I don't see any technical flaws. But he needs to make the starts count.

"He knows that he needs a big score. One hundred in 50 innings he knows that, if he wasn't captain, he would be under serious threat. But there's more to his position in the side when you're the captain. He averages 26, but his average is probably worth in the 40s because of what he brings to the team. If you're just judging someone purely on stats, you forget what they bring to the side. As a captain you bring a lot more to the side than the runs you score on the pitch.

"But there's no question that, in the series against the West Indies, he needs a big score or that problem will get bigger. You can't keep going on as an opening batsman - even if the side are winning.

"The same thing happened to me. In 2008 we went to Lord's to play New Zealand. I'd had a stinker in New Zealand and, though there was no talk of the captaincy, there was talk of my form. I somehow managed to score a hundred. I don't know how - I played terribly to 60 and edged it everywhere - but he might have to play an innings when it looks very ugly. When you're out of form it's a grind, but he somehow has to get three figures in that end column.

"Strauss will know his returns are not great. And he will know when it's time to move on. But at the moment, the time is not right. He'll hope it's in Sydney in 2014 - that will be his dream - but one day he will wake up and say 'I've had enough.'"

Vaughan also expressed a concern over the quality of replacements available in county cricket. While he felt there were several aggressive candidates who could fulfil a role in the middle-order, he was less impressed by the number of top-order batsmen who could see off the new ball in conditions offering encouragement to seam bowlers.

"There is a worry that the batting is not as good as we think it is," Vaughan said. "Strauss would be under more pressure if there was an Alastair Cook waiting in the wings. There are lots of batsmen who could fill roles at five and six, but there aren't many sticking their hands up for one, two or three. That's a concern. Nick Compton has had a good start, but will need to do a lot more. Luke Wells is a quality player. I've seen [Michael] Carberry; I've seen [Varun] Chopra. I just don't think we have enough who play old school batting and that is what is required at one, two or three at the minute.

"Ravi Boprara will play against the West Indies, I'm sure of that. Eoin Morgan won't play the first Test. He will have to score a load of runs to get back in the side. England will beat the West Indies 3-0 unless it rains. I just can't see how the West Indies are going to get enough runs against England's bowling attack."

Vaughan was talking at the launch of NatWest's Locals v Legends series. The scheme offers local cricket clubs across England and Wales an opportunity to play a T20 match against a team of England legends captained by Vaughan, with an aim of providing a boost to club funds.

For more information visit www.natwest.com/cricket

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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