Tuesday, 12 September 2006

The two Andrews...

Well, the announcement of the ICC Trophy and Ashes teams will be made in 75 minutes' time...and the name of the captain will be revealed. The media is shouting Flintoff's name as loudly as possible, certain he has it in the bag.

Confession: I'm cheering for Andrew Strauss. Last year, after the Ashes, before Michael Vaughan was injured, I said to Rach that I thought Strauss should be vice-captain - I felt he had the natural ability and temperament for the captaincy. *Kisses own hand in self-congratulation* Go me.

After a rocky start, Andrew Strauss has grown into the job beautifully. He is a quick learner who sees the big picture, picks up patterns and responds accordingly. He is also willing to change if something isn't working, although if he sees potential, he'll back it to the hilt - witness his confidence in Saj Mahmood despite the latter's erratic performances. He takes calculated risks - a character trait that I suspect was well-honed by his economics degree from Durham. (I mean, he lists one of his hobbies as economic chaos theory - how qewl is THAT for a sportsman?) He may be a bit conservative at times, but going into a series where all we need is four DRAWS, that's no bad thing. His style of inspiration appears to be a good ear and a quiet word here and there, as well as leading by example as opening batsman - his form has improved greatly since he took the captaincy. Under his leadership, the team has shown character, coming back from a trouncing by Sri Lanka to win the Test series and tie the ODI series (from 2-0 down) against Pakistan.

Now, I love Andrew Flintoff, don't get me wrong. He is an amazing sportsman and a top-class all rounder who deserved last year's Sportsman of the Year award, with a huge personality to match. It's no wonder he's the media's darling. And he's a lovely, lovely bloke - in his case, flamboyance does not equate with narcissism. He will inspire by word and deed. But that doesn't make him the best captain - not only did his form dip (a huge problem when you inspire by example), but his tactics appear to be based on "Right, if you want something done, do it yourself." He seems very much a "here and now" rather than a "patterns and possibilities" person. In a five day Test, you need to be able to see what the long term consequences of your decision might be. There's also the issue that Freddie tends to want to be everyone's best mate, which you can't be if you're making tough decisions. Frankly, Freddie will inspire us and intimidate the Aussies just by being there, and Steve Harmison will have the Ant to his Dec. Let Freddie be Freddie and play his best cricket.

Oh, and whilst we're on the subject, could we please stop assuming that "charismatic" and "flamboyant" equals "natural leader"? Two words for you on that one: David Koresh. Charisma is the ability, loud or quiet, to draw people to you. Flamboyance is the ability to draw attention to yourself by being loud and colourful. That's all. Leadership is about bringing out the best in people, individually and as a team, problem-solving, planning, looking outward and forward. They're completely different qualities, and for those cricket fans who disagree, the leadership style of Michael Vaughan, widely acknowledged as one of the best captains in the world, more closely approximates that of Andrew Strauss.

For you non-cricket fans, two more words: Nelson Mandela.

And on a completely unrelated topic, can anyone tell me why sandwich makers feel the need to put an entire tub of cream cheese on a salmon and cream cheese baguette? Yuk.

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