Three lions on the shirt and now three captains on the field — English cricket has just taken a leap into the unknown.
Even Andy Flower, the team director, admitted today that there are no guarantees of success following the ground-breaking decision to have Andrew Strauss in charge at Test level, Alastair Cook there for one-day internationals (ODI) and Stuart Broad leading out the Twenty20 side.
It all comes about from Strauss’s decision not only to stand down as one-day captain, but also to retire from limited overs cricket.
His Test opening partner Cook did not even make the recent World Cup squad, but with no Strauss at the top of the order the 26-year-old star of the Ashes victory is seen as the right man to take over both roles.
And, of course, it will give him more leadership experience before, as it is widely thought, he eventually succeeds Strauss — eight years his senior.
Dropping Paul Collingwood a year after he lifted the World Twenty20 Cup was not forced on the selectors, though, and Flower said the 34-year-old was “very disappointed, as you would expect him to be”.
But he described it as entering a new era and Broad, not 25 until next month, was the one chosen after an interview process that included, among other unnamed players, the former captain Kevin Pietersen.
“It’s never been tried before, so we are actually quite excited about the opportunity,” Flower said.
“I don’t think any side has had three separate captains before. We do not know 100 per cent whether it will work or whether it will be the most effective or efficient system, but we are going to give it a try.
“I think with the quality of people that we’ve got around us we form a good leadership team.”
Strauss said that it was a very difficult decision to turn his back on one-day cricket.
“After a number of discussions with both [managing director] Hugh Morris and Andy Flower, as well as a few weeks of reflection following the World Cup, I’ve decided that now is the right time to relinquish my role as captain of the one-day side and retire from this form of the game,” Strauss said.
“It was a very difficult decision. I certainly had the idea floating around in my mind at the end of the World Cup, but I realised it was important to take a few weeks to let things settle down.
“Ultimately the decision was made because the end of the World Cup is a watershed for all one-day teams and is a team to refresh and regenerate and to move forward.
“I didn’t think in my own mind that for me to start that process knowing full well I wouldn’t be able to see it through to the next World Cup was in the best interests of the team.
“I think this gives Alastair a blank canvas from which to work alongside Andy Flower to take the team forward. And obviously it allows me to concentrate on the Test side, but also work with these two in overseeing the overall strategy.
“I’ve enjoyed my time as one-day captain immensely and I’m extremely proud of the strides we have made over the past two years.”
“There is, however, still a long way to go for us in this form of the game and this is the perfect opportunity for a new captain to take up the challenge.
“I still have a huge amount of desire and motivation to continue leading the Test team and help us achieve our goal of becoming the number one ranked team in the world. I’ve very excited about the challenges that await us.
“I’m delighted that Alastair and Stuart have been appointed. they are both proven world-class cricketers and have outstanding leadership qualities.
“I look forward to working closely with them as we strive to progress England’s development across all forms of the game.”
Strauss added, however, that while he wants to be around for two more Ashes series he could not be certain that his Test captaincy would not be undermined by the new arrangement.
“I can’t be sure and we don’t know how things are going to pan out in the future, but I think this gives us a great chance of progressing.”
Cook commented: “It’s a huge honour to be asked and a huge privilege to captain England.
“The Test captaincy is a long way down the line. I’m excited by the challenge of taking our 50-over cricket to new heights and I believe I can play an integral role with the bat as well as captain.
“I’ve worked hard on my limited overs cricket in recent times. I’ve never seen myself as a Test batsman exclusively and I know I have a lot to offer strategically and as a top-order batsman in one-day cricket.”
Morris confirmed that Strauss will play a part in mentoring both Cook and Broad in what is bound to be viewed as their auditioning for the main Test job.
He also paid tribute to Collingwood who led England to their first global tournament success at last year’s World Twenty20.
“In many ways Paul has sent the benchmark for future England captains in the shorter form of the game and his partnership with Andrew Strauss and Andrew Flower in leading England teams over the past two years has established a terrific platform for us to set ourselves ambitious goals over the next four-year period.
“We firmly believe we have a leadership team capable of working together to provide England with the best opportunity of becoming the number one Test nation in the world and challenging for ICC global events.”
Strauss was arguably England’s best batsman in the World Cup, highlighted by a career-high 158 in the drawn match with the eventual winners India.
But the side only just squeezed through the group stages, losing to Ireland and Bangladesh, and then suffered a 10-wicket hammering by Sri Lanka in the quarter-finals.
Cook, of course, was not called upon after being the standout batsmen in the historic Ashes success during the winter, scoring a record 766 runs, and has made just three ODI appearances in the past two and a half years.
They were on last year’s tour of Bangladesh when Strauss was rested. England won all three and he averaged 52.
Broad, equally excited about the chance now offered him, starts against Sri Lanka in Bristol on June 25. Cook then takes over at The Oval three days later.