Chris Stocks gets the view from the top on England’s turnaround in ODI form under Eoin Morgan
As he enters the third year in his job as England’s director of cricket, Andrew Strauss gives an extensive interview about the challenges that lie ahead.
Chris Stocks: You backed Eoin Morgan to stay on as limited-overs captain two years ago. How happy are you with what has happened since?
Andrew Strauss: “He’s done a phenomenal job. When you look at the transformation of the white-ball team, he’s been front and centre in all the discussions and effectively leading by example in the middle both as captain and with the bat. He deserves immense credit.”
Regardless of what happens in the Champions Trophy, do you feel England are ahead of schedule in white-ball cricket considering where they were after the last World Cup?
“Yes. I think none of us thought the transformation would be quite as quick and that’s great credit to Eoin and (coach) Trevor Bayliss in particular and the players themselves who came in and hit the ground running.
“Ultimately, there is a nice break in the road after the Champions Trophy and a chance for us to reassess what we need to do to get better with the 2019 World Cup in mind.”
You have encouraged England’s players to go to the Indian Premier League and the likes of Ben Stokes have had huge success. Are you happy with that decision?
“It’s not an easy one to navigate our way through. Personally, I think the players who have gone over there and played a number of games have benefitted massively from the experience. We’ve seen that already with the maturity that Ben is playing with the bat.
“I think Chris Woakes was saying that, for both of those guys to go there, have a great life experience but also have that opportunity to pit themselves against the best players in the world, they have come back knowing they’re as good as anyone out there and that deep-rooted belief is massively important.
“Having said that, we’ve always got to balance that great opportunity for them with the schedules and workloads and the importance of us peaking for important series. We just need to keep looking at this on a year-by-year and case-by-case basis.
“There will be times where it may be the smart thing for a player and us not to play and at other times it might be the smart thing for them to play in the IPL.”
Next summer there is likely to be Test cricket in May. Would you allow England players to skip that to play in the IPL?
“Personally, I think that’s unlikely. When you get to the stage where you’re missing Test matches to play in the IPL that sends out a very strong message about where your priorities are – and I would be uncomfortable with that.”
Stokes is rapidly becoming the most high-profile England player since Andrew Flintoff. Are you confident he can deal with the pitfalls that fame might bring?
“It does come with dangers, but they’re good dangers. It’s a great fillip for the game in this country to have a genuinely world-class, potential superstar in our ranks. Just think what that can do in terms of attracting people to the game. Ben has been phenomenal in the way he approaches his cricket, the conversations he has with players in the dressing-room – he is desperate to win, and desperate to win for England as well.
“He’s in a really good place to deal with it (the extra profile). But the challenge is about balancing different demands that there will be on his time. I think he will have learned a lot already.”
Multi-format players such as Stokes face a huge workload over the next year. How far in advance do you plan when they will be rested?
“We do plot it out, but it’s very dangerous to make it concrete until just before the series starts. We’ve got a skeleton plan, but we need to be relatively flexible with that.
“One thing we’ve always had in the back of our minds, post-Champions Trophy, is we want to broaden it out a little bit more again with regards to the white-ball team and have a look at some of the young players who are just there or thereabouts at the moment.
“We’ve got a big winter ahead and need to make sure our best players are as fresh as possible for those challenges.”
That winter starts with the Ashes. How confident are you Australia will sort out their pay dispute before the first Test in Brisbane?
“I’d be very surprised if anything other than a full-strength team turned out at the Gabba. I would have thought the Ashes will focus people’s minds to make sure they get a conclusion to where they are at the moment.”
Are you confident you can avoid a similar situation here when England players’ deals next come up for discussion?
“Our agreement is tied in with our TV deal that runs till 2019, and there will be conversations over the next couple of years to ensure we put together something that’s fair and everyone is happy with.
“I’m in no way commenting on what’s happening in Cricket Australia. But I’d like to think we can have some sort of mature conversations with the players early enough to prevent us going down that sort of route.”
How involved are you with the plans for the new T20 competition?
“A little bit, on the playing and coaching side. We are doing a huge amount of work to try to put the detail on those plans. Clearly, we’ve still got three years until it starts – but it’s going to be very new, very different, very fresh, focused on a completely different audience.
“What excites me most is it will be 100 of the best cricketers in this country, 24 of the best cricketers around the world playing against each other in high-intensity.
“That’s why we’re sending our players to the IPL. We hope we have something very similar here in three years’ time.”
This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper, June 2 2017
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