ABU DHABI // Despite the success of Alastair Cook's trial run as England's cricket captain in the series which ended triumphantly in Bangladesh on Wednesday, one of his most famous predecessors was vehemently against the experiment. Sir Ian Botham, who, in his playing days, memorably transformed the 1981 Ashes series against Australia from defeat to victory, felt that the English management missed a trick regarding preparations for next winter's showdowns with their oldest and fiercest rivals.
Botham was adamant that Andrew Strauss should have been in charge of the team in Bangladesh to take advantage of the opportunity to stamp his authority on the squad in advance of the crucial tour later this year when they seek the rare honour of retaining the Ashes on foreign soil. England will play five Tests in Australia. "Strauss should have been with the England side," Botham said on a recent visit to Abu Dhabi for the Laureus Sports Awards.
"He can't be exhausted with his batting - he averaged only 24 in South Africa. He has been captain for just a year and with the Ashes round the corner he should be with the team. "I was amazed he chose to take this time off - I was surprised he was given it. As captain you need to be there with your team. "I think it's a major mistake and I think people will remember this for a long time." An indignant Botham, who played 102 Test matches for England between 1977 and 1992, added: "I don't understand it. It's not as if England have won their last three series and he's scoring hundreds left right and centre - he's not.
"The captain should be on board the ship - he's got to live with it." However, Strauss yesterday dismissed those who had criticised him for missing the 2-0 series win over Bangladesh. "That's their opinion but I don't share their opinion," he told the BBC. "If you do something different to what's been done before there's always going to be criticism." And Strauss was also quick to praise Cook's efforts in Bangladesh.
"If I got injured this season then he would take over definitely - I think he's done an excellent job," he said. "It's not easy when you have not had much experience captaining sides before to come in and captain England with all the attention that goes alongside it, and I think he dealt with that side of it very well. "It obviously didn't affect his game, he batted exceptionally well and it further enhances his respect within the group.
"I don't think he can faulted for anything. No one knows how long I'm going to go on for but certainly Alastair is going to be one of the names on the list and will be much better for the experience he has had now." @Email:email@example.com