Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Strauss tries to get under Gayle’s skin in first Test at Lord's

Chris Gayle and Andrew Strauss are all smiles before battle commences today

England captain Andrew Strauss senses his opposite number Chris Gayle may have crossed the line with his late arrival for the first npower Test at Lord's today.

Strauss himself will today be leading Indian Premier League players who arrived back from the Twenty20 tournament in South Africa only late last week, not that far ahead of the West Indies captain.

But Strauss makes a distinction between those circumstances — surrounding his three key middle-order batsmen Kevin Pietersen, Ravi Bopara and Paul Collingwood — and Gayle's appearance barely 48 hours before the first ball of a two-match series is due to be bowled.

"Certainly, we wouldn't want our players to arrive two days before," he spelled out.

"We are trying to avoid going too far over that line. That is an important thing."

At stake according to Strauss is not just the one-off ability of an individual to prepare in time to play at the highest level but the bigger picture of the sacred primacy of Test cricket over the hugely-lucrative Twenty20 format. "You don't want Test cricket to be devalued in any way, shape or form," he said.

"The important thing is that Test cricket gets the attention it deserves, and that means people prepare themselves properly for any Test match they play.

"None of us wants a situation where international cricket is competing against IPL cricket. I think that is unhealthy for the game and unhealthy for the IPL — and most importantly, unhealthy for the future of Test cricket."

As for his own IPL contingent, Strauss appears entirely satisfied with the arrangements they have abided by and their preparation to try to wrest back the Wisden Trophy lost against these opponents in the Caribbean this past winter.

"All the guys who have come back from the IPL, their enthusiasm in meetings and practice has been huge," the captain reported.

"I know they all thoroughly enjoyed their experience, because it was so different. That is a symptom of a good mindset. That is the key. If they get that right, they will go out and perform."

Asked bluntly whether it was a mistake for England's players to take part in the IPL with so little time available — especially bearing in mind the injury suffered there by pivotal all-rounder Andrew Flintoff — Strauss replied: "I don't think so.

"We've got a Twenty20 World Cup just around the corner. If those guys haven't learned anything from those four weeks then they're never going to learn anything."

He is confident Pietersen et al have the talent and professionalism to ensure their performances are not compromised this week.

"That is a bit of a challenge for them, clearly,” he said.

“But they're all good, experienced players — and there's no reason why they can't do that," he added.

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