Tag Archives: Alastair Cook

Is it time for captain Cook to go?

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.”

Pressure

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.

Match-winning performances

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.

England facing tough test in India

England’s Indian sub-continent journey continues as they focus on how to deal with Indian spin duo Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. 

After a disappointing loss to Bangladesh in the second Test match, England must regroup for the five-match Test series against India.

You can’t blame them for wanting to move on swiftly after the way in which Bangladesh claimed their first-ever Test win over the tourists in Dhaka.

Chasing a target of 273, England raced to 100-0, with victory seemingly in their sights. However, that is when the mighty collapse began as they were bowled out for 164.

Positives

There are, however, some positives to take from the series against Bangladesh. Moeen Ali took his second five-wicket Test haul as well as being England’s joint top wicket-taker with 11.

“These capitulations could well have a psychological effect on the players, making their confidence brittle in the face of India’s feared spin bowling attack”

Adil Rashid contributed with both bat and ball. Ben Duckett made his maiden Test 50, and Ben Stokes was his usual aggressive self.

England fans will be hoping these players can continue their fine form in India. Moeen and Stokes, in particular, will be vital if England are to win a series against the world’s No.1-ranked Test team.

Beating India on home territory is never easy, but England managed it in 2013, taking the Test series 2-1.

Before that, though, they hadn’t won in India since 1984-85. So will it be another rare victory or back to business as usual?

Negatives

A few players did not grasp their chance to nail down a place in the side. Gary Ballance was one of them, scoring just 24 runs in two Tests and leaving himself open to fresh doubts.

If Ballance is dropped, could teenager Haseeb Hameed come into the side and open with the skipper Alastair Cook?

“It will be up to England’s seam attack to target the Indians as they are more comfortable facing spin”

The Lancashire right-hander should be given a chance to show what he can do with the bat as well as learning from senior players such as Joe Root.

One thing is for certain: England will be desperate to avoid another batting collapse.

The writing was perhaps on the wall in the second Test after they found themselves 69 for 5 after 15 overs in the first innings, but no-one foresaw that second-innings shocker after they reached 100 without loss.

These capitulations could well have a psychological effect on the players, making their confidence brittle in the face of India’s feared spin bowling attack.

Cook had a fairly quiet series against Bangladesh, with his best score of 59 coming in the second innings of the second match. He does, however, have an impressive record in India, going back to his debut Test century in Nagpur in March 2006.

India

Jadeja (left) and Ashwin aim to send England spinning. Pic from indianexpress

So dominant are India in their home conditions, that touring teams are seldom expected to claim a series triumph.

With a run machine in captain Virat Kohli and a world-class bowling attack in Ashwin and Jadeja, they will be definite favourites against England.

India are coming off the back of a Test series win against New Zealand. Ashwin was the top wicket-taker with a mammoth 27 to his name compared to the 10 that both Trent Boult and Mitchell Santner took for the Kiwis.

With Ashwin is in red-hot form, England will look to play him correctly and not to be too aggressive as he could strike at any moment.

India’s batting line-up is another of their strengths, and the top six-seven can all contribute.

Murali Vijay was in notably good form against New Zealand, and it will be up to England’s seam attack to target the Indians as they are more comfortable facing spin.

Without James Anderson, Stuart Broad is likely to lead the line, with Stokes and Chris Woakes backing him up.

Verdict

England face a tough series against India, but if they can read the pitches well, build big partnerships, avoid batting collapses and take plenty of wickets, then they will be fine.

Ensuring they do all of those things at the same time is, however, a big ‘if’…

They need their spinners to be dominant. Rashid, Moeen and Gareth Batty must trick the Indian batsman as well as getting help from the pitches.

Garry Ballance should be given one more chance in the first Test match to try and produce a big innings, but if he doesn’t then he should make way for Hameed who is eager to make an impressive debut against the best Test nation in the world.

The first Test against India starts on November 9th in Rajkot at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, which is hosting its first-ever Test match.

The last time England played in Rajkot was a one-day international versus India in 2013, with the visitors winning by nine runs.

They’ll be hoping that’s a good omen for the start of what promises to be a demanding Test series.

My England XI for the first Test would be: Alastair Cook (capt), Garry Ballance, Joe Root, Ben Duckett, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow (wkt), Ben Stokes, Adil Rashid, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Gareth Batty.