Saturday, October 31, 2009

Strauss: We'll handle hostility

Andrew Strauss expects England to shrug off any hostility to their South African contingent when they meet the world's number one team.

Strauss insists there will be no divided loyalties as England depart for the two-and-a-half month tour with a squad containing four players with South African connections.

Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen are products of the Rainbow Nation's cricketing system while Matt Prior and Strauss himself were born in Johannesburg.

Pietersen was heavily abused by crowds upon his return to South Africa as an England player five years ago and Trott faces a similar reaction during a tour consisting of four Tests and five one-day internationals.

Strauss has responded to critics of England's selection policy by stating their players' birthplace is unimportant.

"In terms of trying to win the Test series it won't be a big issue but it might bubble away in the background," he said.

"All I can say is the selectors sit down and pick the best 15 England qualified players.

"The fact some of them have been born out of these shores is of no consequence.

"In order to make it to Test level you must show a lot of determination, hunger and desire.

"The fact Kevin and Jonathan have come over later in their lives is of no consequence.

"They've obviously had the determination, hunger and desire - possibly more than some people in county cricket.

"They deserve to be playing for England because of that.

"I don't think this system can't produce good England players, we've seen it produce a number of good England born players over the years and that will to continue to be the case.

"It's easy to start looking where you are born but it's of no real consequence. It's about the yards people put in, not the system.

"As captain I'm very happy that the 15 players I've got are 100% committed to performing for England and representing their country.

"That's the way it should be. Looking into their backgrounds is of no consequence to us and is not something we'll focus on."

Michael Vaughan's criticism of Trott this week has added a twist to the presence of the Cape Town-born 28-year-old's, who scored a century on his Test debut in the Ashes decider at The Oval this summer.

Former England captain Vaughan revealed in his autobiography that Trott was spotted celebrating with South African players after they had beaten England at Edgbaston in 2008.

But Strauss dismisses any doubt over Trott loyalty to England.

"I'm 100% happy with Trott's commitment to playing for England and have no concern over it whatsoever," he said.

"He said himself that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He knows a few of those players.

"I've spoken about it with him and he has a completely clear conscience on the matter.

"He said hi and well done to the guys - if I wasn't playing in the Test I'd probably have said the same thing as well.

"He showed what an exciting prospect he is at the Oval.

"To uproot you life and start all over again in another country is a bid decision and I'm sure he'll make the most of the opportunity of playing for England."

Strauss believes beating South Africa away presents a greater challenge than winning the Ashes this summer.

"Playing South Africa, who are the number one team in the world, is probably the hardest assignment there is. It's harder than winning the Ashes at home," he said.
"In pure cricketing terms this is as hard as it gets right now."

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