Andrew Strauss knows the best captains lead from the front, and accepts it is time he did so again for England.
Strauss, set to face Pakistan today without Chris Tremlett in his armoury because of the fast bowler’s sore back, ought not to be concerned on that score but he does have troublesome issues closer to home.
Tremlett’s likely absence is a relatively minor inconvenience for England, albeit potentially a more significant setback for the fragile fast bowler himself.
Steven Finn or Graham Onions should prove an able deputy at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium. But more vexing for Strauss, and England, is the captain’s long run without a Test century.
Strauss’s 19th hundred at the highest level is his only one in his last 42 innings, stretching back to Lord’s in the 2009 Ashes.
It would be unfair to say Strauss has been unproductive in that time as there have been 10 half-centuries. But that is not the point, as England’s captain and opening batsman readily admits.
Strauss and Alastair Cook will open together for the 100th time, as England urgently seek to fight back in this three-match series after their crushing and unexpected defeat in Dubai.
For many reasons then, it would be a fitting stage – especially after his double failure last week – for Strauss to rediscover the art of building a dominant innings.
“It’s obviously disappointing – and certainly not getting runs in the last game was – but having been around the Test match scene for a while now, I know form ebbs and flows,” he said.
“One innings can completely change both your perspective and others’ perspective in how well you’re playing.
“So I’m not over-fussed about it but I’m conscious it’s important as a captain you lead from the front with regards to scoring runs.”
Strauss was not alone as an England batsman with cause for regret at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, where the top six were particularly fallible against Saeed Ajmal and then Umar Gul.
“As an opening batsman it can be challenging at times,” added the 34-year-old.
“But all you can do is accept the challenge and make sure you prepare yourself properly and when you get in a position to score a big hundred you do that.
“That’s probably where I’ve let myself down a little over the last year or so – when I’ve got to 50 or 60 I’ve got out rather than gone on.”
Strauss’s twin duties as batsman and captain are a mixed blessing.
“Over-analysing your game and getting too concerned by technical worries or whatever can put you in a bad place mentally,” he said. “But generally I’ve found being captain has helped my game, and I hope that’ll continue.
“I think maybe when you’re young and naive you’re always looking for that magic answer so you’ll be changing your technique, trying different things in the nets.
“When you’re a bit older you realise the best thing is to keep everything the same, keep your preparation the same, don’t have too many concerns about your technique and make sure you watch the ball.
“Anyone who is under any illusion that Test match cricket gets any easier as you get older is wrong.”
Strauss was optimistic that Tremlett might be able to play his second successive Test, having been absent with back trouble for the previous five-and-a-half months, but that was dependent on him bowling during England practice, and instead Tremlett barely moved from his seat on a drinks cool box while his team-mates prepared in earnest.
England (from): AJ Strauss (Captain), AN Cook, IJL Trott, KP Pietersen, IR Bell, EJG Morgan, MJ Prior (wkt), SCJ Broad, GP Swann, ST Finn, JM Anderson, MS Panesar, G Onions
Pakistan (from): Misbah-ul-Haq (Captain), T Umar, M Hafeez, A Ali, Y Khan, U Akmal, A Akmal (wkt), S Ajmal, A Rehman, U Gul, J Khan, A Cheema, A Shafiq, W Riaz
Umpires: S Davis (Aus) and B Oxenford (Aus).