Andrew Strauss proof of the thin line between success and failure

LONDON - New Zealand was not the first-choice venue for Andrew Strauss to relaunch his England career after he was banished to the wilderness two years ago.

Strauss, omitted from the side to tour Sri Lanka in 2007, had planned to play in South Africa, the land of his birth 32 years ago.

Instead he ended up in the New Zealand North Island town of Hamilton and was playing for Northern Districts without much success when he got a break that illustrated the tissue-thin divide between success and failure in the life of an elite sportsman.

In his final innings for Northern Districts, Strauss lobbed the second ball to mid-on, "the easiest catch I have ever seen in my life".

To Strauss's astonishment the catch went down. His equally dumbfounded batting partner was run out while he watched in disbelief from the middle of the pitch.

Strauss went on to make a hundred, which was to lead to his recall to the England team who were touring New Zealand early last year.

"It was in a losing cause, admittedly, but this innings set me on the road to recovery and redemption," he writes in his new book, Testing Times.

Further trials were to come. New Zealand unexpectedly won the first Test and though England bounced back by winning the second, Strauss's form was unconvincing.

Before the second innings of the third Test, Strauss had not scored a century for 15 Tests. For the first time in his life he had trouble sleeping, knowing another failure could mean the end of a Test career that had begun with a century against New Zealand at Lord's.

Strauss was distraught after making a duck in the first innings before showing his character and determination with 177 in a winning cause in the second, which secured his place. The subsequent 18 months has been a period of almost uninterrupted success.

He has been fluent and prolific with the bat and, after he was elevated to the England captaincy this year, taking over from Kevin Pietersen, he led the team to victory against the odds in the Ashes series against Australia.

At the launch of Testing Times last week, Strauss reflected on what had in effect been an enforced sabbatical and the power of positive thinking, which helped him to recapture his England place.

"It was a chance for me to step back and assess over the past three or four years when I've been playing for England what it was that I have actually been doing well, what had contributed to me not playing well for England." - Reuters