Tag Archives: MS Dhoni

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.

How did Sri Lanka fare in 2016?

It’s been a distinctly mixed year for Sri Lankan cricket. There were many highs as well as many lows – from being totally outclassed by England in all formats to breezing past the Aussies in the Test series. 

The year started in preparation for the 2016 ICC World T20, hosted by India. Sri Lanka had a mammoth task in trying to defend their crown without the likes of the retired Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

Before the World T20, they had a short tour of India and made the journey to Bangladesh to compete in the 2016 Asia Cup.

South African Graham Ford returned as head coach – a position he left in 2013 – and he and the selectors picked a bunch of fresh names for the challenge.

Vice-captain Dinesh Chandimal took charge, and the side to face seasoned stars such as MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma included young fast bowlers Kasun Rajitha and Binura Fernando.

The tour started well, and Sri Lanka surprised the Indian spectators as they won the first game by five wickets. However, India went on to win the series 2-1.

The Asia Cup provided worryingly little improvement, and the only game Sri Lanka won was against the UAE.

World T20 shambles

That turned out to be a taste of the disastrous things to come at the World T20.

Sri Lanka went into the tournament without feared fast bowler Lasith Malinga – out with a knee injury – who would have played a key role in their title defence. The Lankans were also in a tough group along with England, West Indies, South Africa and Afghanistan.

“The tour of England came around and with it a chance to see some new faces prove their worth”

They defeated minnows Afghanistan in the first game but went on to lose all their others, although there was some close encounters.

They nearly handed a defeat to England but crashed to bad losses against West Indies and South Africa to make a humiliatingly early exit. The Windies went on to win the tournament, defeating England in the final.

Much soul-searching followed, with speculation about whether the veteran Tillakarante Dilshan would retire, and questions asked about the calibre of some of the players picked.

As it was, Dilshan carried on but veteran bowler Rangana Herath decided to retire from T20s, and then the tour of England came around and with it a chance to see some new faces prove their worth.

Skittled in England

Going to England, Sri Lanka were always seen as the underdogs in all of the formats – and so it proved as the tourists failed to win a single game against the hosts.

“The one-dayers were no different, with lacklustre displays throughout”

For their fans, it was miserable to see poor performances in pretty much every match. The last time Sri Lanka toured England was in 2014, when they made a winning clean sweep of the one-day, T20 and Test series.

But there were still some individuals who managed to stand out and have a pretty good tour. Kusal Mendis impressed many, scoring 53 in the first Test in a pressure situation.

Captain Angelo Mathews showed some consistency with the bat, scoring 34 in the first Test and 80 in the second.

Those were the only positives to take from the Test series, however, and the one-dayers were no different, with lacklustre displays throughout aside from a few good individual performances such as that of wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal.

Steamrolling Australia

The home Test series, beginning in July, gave Sri Lanka a chance to get back on track with victory over the mighty Australians.

Herath remains one of Sri Lanka’s best bowlers. Pic by Jumpy News, flickr creative commons

That lofty aim became a reality as Sri Lanka won the series 3-0.

Herath was the best bowler, taking 28 wickets in the three matches as well as being name player of the series, and a new hero came to light in the shape of Dhananjaya De Silva.

De Silva scored 325 runs with a best of 129. Kusal Mendis was also in scintillating form, with a top score of 176 in the first Test.

For the first time this year, Sri Lankan supporters had something to cheer and be proud about.

Whitewashing Australia in a Test series will certainly be a top memory for many fans, and one of the most memorable achievements in the country’s cricketing history.

The one-day series that followed felt like a close encounter despite the fact that Sri Lanka lost the series 4-1.

Dominance

Months after the Australia tour, Zimbabwe presented a new challenge. Chandimal and Mathews did not travel due to injury, so it was a chance for other players to gain some experience. Herath was named as captain for the Test series and guided his side to a 2-0 win.

The whole team clicked and once Mathews and Chandimal come back, there will certainly be tough competition for places in the starting XI.

The Sri Lankan side are currently still in Zimbabwe competing in a tri-series along with the West Indies and Zimbabwe.

The Lankans end 2016 with a really tough tour to South Africa, with the first Test beginning on Boxing Day.

With good form since defeating Australia, you never know, they could rise to the occasion and win a Test series against South Africa for the first time.