Cricket Expert & Columnist
Michael Atherton tells Sky Sports News the England captaincy is in safe hands with Andrew Strauss.
Last Updated: 08/01/09 8:26am
Michael Atherton believes the appointment of Andrew Strauss as England skipper on an interim basis after Kevin Pietersen's resignation is a rational choice.
Strauss missed out on the captaincy last August following Michael Vaughan's decided to quit, with Pietersen getting the nod instead, but has been handed the reins for the upcoming tour of the West Indies after Pietersen chose to stand down.
Atherton, who led England from 1993-2001, told Sky Sports News that the appointment of Strauss could be the long-term solution to England's captaincy conundrum.
"Andrew Strauss is very different from Kevin Pietersen. He's less instinctive, less of a maverick, less brilliant in many ways but perhaps a safer pair of hands," he said.
"The problem he has is his one-day form. He has not been in the one-day side and Geoff Miller recently said that he wanted one captain for all forms of the game, so that would be problematic for Strauss.
"I don't see a problem myself with splitting the job and having a Test match captain and a one-day captain."
Atherton suggested that 28-year-old Pietersen, who described his working relationship with former coach Peter Moores as "unhealthy" at the weekend, could find it difficult to slot back into the England ranks despite his determination to travel to the West Indies and help to try and to recapture the Ashes later in the summer.
"This decision is going to leave some bruises, some big bruises," said Atherton. "Pietersen's got a big ego and that ego will have been punctured by the knowledge that the rest of the team are not necessarily on him on this issue.
"When [managing director of England cricket] Hugh Morris talked to the players they did not necessarily back Kevin Pietersen up, so he will feel a little unloved and let down because he deliberately went out of his way to back players when he was in charge.
"So how he reintegrates into the team, or whether he can, is the key issue for England moving forward because he is the world-class player in the team. He would be a hard player to lose and England certainly want him at his best for the very important year that is coming up.
"So how Andrew Strauss and the new coach go about integrating him into the new team, making him feel loved, wanted, a part of things when he won't feel like that right now is the key thing moving forward."
Pietersen and Moores are believed to have disagreed on a number of issues, including the use of coaching methods and the decision not to recall Michael Vaughan for the tour of West Indies, and the on-going saga has re-opened the debate about how the coach-captain relationship should work.
"I think it is an issue that cricket has not really resolved since the rise of the 'cult of the coach'," said Atherton. "When I started playing for England we had a coach who was no more than a man who used to organise practice and the players had responsibility for their performances.
"But now you have batting, fielding, bowling coaches and analysts. The rise of the 'cult of the coach' has meant that the coach is more important than he was and cricket has to resolve who is the man in charge? The key issue, though, is that the two men must get on.
"If you look at the strongest relationships in recent years - Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher, Nasser Hussain and Duncan Fletcher, Graham Gooch and Mickey Stewart.
"They might have had differences on policy and players but always those differences were behind closed doors and they presented a united front to the team and the public."