He is England’s most capped player, their highest-ever scorer, longest-serving Test captain, and is a double Ashes-winning skipper.
But all good things must come to an end, and Alastair Cook’s leadership of England’s Test team looks set to end ahead of the summer.
“Captaincy always brings pressure… when things do not go your way, instantly questions will be asked of you”
After this winter’s tour struggles in Bangladesh and India, is the time right for the Essex man to step down?
Joe Root, the current vice-captain of the Test side and Cook’s most likely successor, has loyally expressed his desire for him to remain as skipper.
“I do think he’ll make a decision in the best interests of the team, and in my opinion it would be great if he did stay on and lead it forward. I think he’s got a lot to offer.
“Regardless of what decision he makes – whether he’s captain or not – he will continue to be a massive leader and a focal part of this team moving forward.”
Former Ashes-winning England captain Michael Vaughan does, however, expect Cook to resign. He told BBC Sport: “His body language over the last three matches [Against India, all ending in defeat]… he looks like he might be thinking of calling it a day.”
Cook without a doubt is one of England’s greatest cricketers, having amassed over 11,000 Test runs. His average as captain in Test cricket is an impressive 47.84, but his recent form in the series in Bangladesh and India has dented that.
Cook’s top score in the series in India, at Rajkot in November, was 130. One century in your last 14 innings is not good enough.
Captaincy always brings pressure. You are expected to thrive in every match but when things do not go your way, instantly questions will be asked of you.
Nothing left to prove?
One example would be Angelo Mathews being captain of the Sri Lankan team. In Test cricket, Mathews’s average has sky-rocketed to 50.94 as captain when critics have been on his back for not scoring runs.
“The pressure onSangakkara was lifted and he was freed up to focus on delivering match-winning performances for his team”
This shows that Mathews has the ability to handle pressure as captain and continue to score runs and produce hundreds.
This situation on the England Test captaincy is similar to when MS Dhoni gave up the leading India during their Test series against Australia in 2014, with Virat Kohli succeeding him.
After a stellar career at Test level, Dhoni probably felt he had nothing left to prove, and the negative of the job had begun to outweigh the positives.
Cook won’t want to step down after a bad winter for England, but he’s achieved so much and has cemented his place in England’s cricket history.
Of course, no-one is suggesting Cook should actually stop playing for England as well. As Root says, he still has a lot to offer, and with the pressures and responsibilities of the captaincy removed, he can just focus on his batting.
Cook’s best Test innings came pre-captaincy in 2011 against India when he scored a mammoth 294. Giving up being skipper has benefited other players, including Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara.
In 15 matches as Test captain, Sangakkara scored seven Test hundreds with one double century. Pretty good, but after he gave up the captaincy in 2011, he became a run machine that could not be stopped.
He scored another 13 hundreds, with three double centuries and one triple ton between June 2011 and August 2015.
The pressure was lifted and he was freed up to focus on delivering match-winning performances for his team.
Inspiring young players
Another reason why Cook should give up the captaincy but remain in the side is because it will benefit up-and-coming Test players, with his experience helping inspire the likes of Haseeb Hameed.
“Root will surely become England’s captain and has the potential to lead them to even greater heights than Cook”
The possibility of him giving up Test cricket completely can’t be totally ruled out, and it would allow younger players a chance to get into the side.
Personally, I think England should want to keep Cook in the Test side, freed from the stresses and strains of the captaincy.
Less pressure will be on him, he can focus on his main strength which is his batting, whilst also helping younger players who are finding their feet at Test level.
But Root will surely become England’s captain and has the potential to lead them to even greater heights than Cook.