Alastair Cook: Back Or Sack?

Well that was hugely unpleasant. Before this game everyone said that first innings runs was England’s problem. This time we scored 400 in the first dig and still lost comprehensively. I guess our only weak spots are batting, bowling and fielding. Other than that we’re bloody brilliant.

After Sunday’s Kohli and Ashwin fest, I didn’t think things could get much worse. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned after decades of following England, it’s that things can always, always, get worse. This morning we were blown away in the blink of an eye and, just to add insult to injury, Jimmy Anderson got involved in yet another on-field confrontation.

To be fair to Jimmy, although he’s easier to bait than bear who’s just had his porridge nicked, at least he didn’t start the trouble this time. Ashwin was gunning for a row after Jimmy refused to worship at his altar the previous evening. Obviously Ravichandran thinks it’s ok for Patel to talk down England’s players but not ok for Anderson to talk down India’s. There’s nothing like a healthy dose of hypocrisy eh?

Although (to his credit) Kohli has already tried to smooth things over, it wasn’t a nice way to end the test match. There has been quite a lot of petulance in this game. Personally I think both teams need to grow up or the umpires will start brandishing those ridiculous red cards sooner than we think.

Anyway, back to the matter in hand. How on earth are England going to move forward from here? Basically the ECB have three options – all of which I think are equally likely.

Option A (the nuclear option): Sack Cook, sack the selectors, and probably give Andy Flower some new responsibilities in the process.

Option B (the comfy halfway house): Sack Cook OR the selectors, and hope this moderate scapegoating will satisfy the ensuing bloodlust.

Option C (the “nah-nah-nah-nah-nah I can’t hear you” approach): Do absolutely nothing.

I know this last option might seem unlikely but England don’t play another test for six months after this tour. Instead the ODI side will take centre stage. If England win the Champions Trophy the ECB might hope this recent bout of teeth gnashing blows over. I love a good mixed metaphor me.

However, rather than speculating as to what might happen next, I’m most interested in what should happen. After all, when it comes to English cricket these two are very different things.

Personally I think that (irrespective of what happens to Cook) the selectors should be fired. For every success like the early promotion of Hameed there have been several failures. Just in the last year we’ve had Gary Ballance, Alex Hales, James Vince and Gareth Batty, plus the non-selection of the two best specialist spinners in country cricket last year, plus the non-selection of the best specialist keeper on a tour where taking every chance is crucial.

Throw in the obvious conflict of interest of having selectors who are full time employees of particualar counties and Jim, Mick and Gus don’t have an awful lot going for them. Strauss has threatened to sack them in the past so I think their time has probably come. I imagine Strauss and Flower probably think they can pick the squads themselves.

And now on to the real burning issue, the one I know you’re all desperate to get to. It’s golden bollocks himself Alastair Cook. Sack him or back him?

Before I begin my critique I’d quickly like to reiterate a point I’ve been making for years: Cook never asked to be the ECB, Waitrose, middle-class, “isn’t he lovely”, pin up boy of English cricket. It’s not Cook’s fault that the suits loved his background, his family and his clean-shaven face so much that they made him captain – even though he’d never shown any aptitude for the job.

Over the years, and for various reasons, Cook has come to symbolise everything that’s good and everything that’s bad about English cricket simultaneously – depending, of course, on what side of the debate you’re on. It’s made his job incredibly difficult – especially as he’s a tad awkward in front of cameras and doesn’t have a natural feel for captaincy anyway.

What’s more, in Cook’s defence I think England would’ve lost this series whether he was captain or not. India’s spinners are better than England’s batsmen and India’s batsmen are better than England’s spinners. We were always going to be up against it. Our only realistic chance was for Cook and Root to have blinding series and hope that India played badly.

The other argument – and this is what has kept Chef in a job for so long – is that there’s nobody obvious to replace him. Root is the only real candidate (he’s the vice captain so it would be unfair to promote someone else above him) and Joe already has a huge workload: he’s an integral part of the T20, ODI and test team. Would the captaincy burn him out?

So now on to the case for the prosecution which, I think, can be summarised thus: Cook is a crap captain and obviously needs a rest so let’s ditch the chump. While this might be true (well, apart from maybe the chump bit) many worry what might happen to Root’s form if he took over. The prosecution can shrug this off by referencing both Kohli and Steve Smith: the batting form of Root’s contemporaries has reached new heights since they became leaders.

What’s more, giving Root the captaincy might make him more inclined to knuckle down and start converting more breezy half-centuries into big hundreds. After all, Joe’s relatively poor conversion rate is the one area where his batting needs to improve. Perhaps the extra responsibility will be good for him?

The one thing that worries me, however, is that Root has basically zero captaincy experience. It’s not his fault, as he rarely plays for Yorkshire, but it’s an awkward situation we can’t get around. Cook might argue that Root is ready – perhaps this is the biggest indication yet that the incumbent’s had enough – but we really have no idea whether he’s captaincy material or not.

Consequently, given the imperfect circumstances, here is my advice to Andrew Strauss. Brace yourself for a typically controversial TFT ‘never going to happen’ proposal. Here’s what I, James Morgan, think should happen in an ideal world that doesn’t exist.

Step 1. Eoin Morgan should be sacked as England’s ODI captain.

Step 2: He should be replaced by Joe Root to give the test captain-elect some kind of captaincy experience.

Step 3: If Root proves to be a natural leader, and England win the champions trophy, then make him test captain too.

Step 4: Everyone lives happily ever after – England win the Ashes down under and Alastair goes on to break Sachin Tendulkar’s all time run scoring record (until Joe breaks Alastair’s records a few years later).

Now I imagine half of you probably think I’m crazy to suggest such a radical plan so hear me out. First of all, this has nothing to do with Eoin Morgan opting out of the Bangladesh tour. I supported his right to do so. I think Morgan should be dropped because he’s probably no longer worth his place as a batsman alone – a detailed statistical analysis proves he’s not the player he was in the first half of his career. Ben Duckett could easily take his place and be more productive.

Secondly, I happen to believe that test cricket is more important than the one-day stuff. Getting Root the captaincy experience he needs is more important than Eoin Morgan’s career or England’s 50 over prowess. Besides, I don’t believe England’s ODI form would suffer if Root replaced Morgan anyway. We didn’t really miss Eoin when Buttler was captain in Bangladesh, did we?

The best thing about this plan is that Alastair Cook can still be England’s safety net if all goes wrong. If Root bombs as ODI captain, and that cheeky grin turns into a lost looking frown, then England can retain Alastair as test skipper and think again about a proper succession plan.

And besides, if the Champions Trophy turns into a disaster, then everyone will forget about the other disaster that happened in India six months beforehand. It’s the perfect win-win plan. Which is why, of course, it will never happen.

 James Morgan


  • I’m just surprised that, having tried him in every other conceivable position, they haven’t made Moeen captain… just for a couple of tests.

    • I suggested the same thing (semi-seriously) last week.

      You watch, it’ll only be a matter of hours at most before one of the know-it-alls pipes up with, “Moeen???? He shouldn’t even be in the team.”

  • Cook has the right family, so is therefore the right choice for England captain. The test form has been mostly woeful during his whole time as skipper, I’d say his only highlights have been when the worst Australian side in a generation arrived, followed by the most arrogant “we’ve already got this won” Australian side in a generation a couple of years later. It will be a great day when this petulant teenager is booted out of the england captaincy

  • They should make Morgan test captain. The difference in Captaincy quality will be staring all in the face when we stuff India in the ODI’s
    Jos Buttler second favourite!!

  • I think Cook will resign and ask to be selected as a batsman, I’d say this is the best solution all around in any case. When he returns to the farm in a few weeks I doubt the prospect of captaining in Australia the following winter will be too appealing even if he would like the avenge the whitewash.

    The difference however between Cook and some of his predecessors is that he still warrants a place in the side without the captaincy.

    While reviewing this series James, I can’t referring back to your post on the advantage of home conditions and the stats which supported it, this is only going to re-affirm that trend – I think this is what Anderson was perhaps getting at, albeit in a backhanded way

  • I think it’s a very good idea. People (well, myself and maybe a couple of others) have been saying for ages that Morgan’s not up to the job, either as a batsman or captain. I haven’t seen any match where he’s been captain where he’s not made a complete hash of it, but perhaps I’ve been unlucky. The only drawback is, if Root is successful as ODI captain, does he then have to lead both teams? Surely this will be too much?

    • I would make him captain in all three formats like Kohli but give him time off now and again. Buttler would be a capable stand in captain in ODIs and T20.

      • I quite like your ODI idea, with reservations, but captaining all three formats is too much to do. Besides, Buttler is the ODI T/20 captain in waiting and it’s not very fair on him. I can’t think of a way round that unless when or if Capatain Root is promoted to the test team, Buttler takes over from him in the shortened format.

        The ODI team is Morgan’s team. He has shaped and mounded the side but that is not enough. His batting needs to be better.

        • I used to hate it when Cook used to step in and out of ODI series, added to the second rate feel. Would also like Jos to be the man after Morgan whenever that is

          Although his test recall is a problem for me in that regard. I can’t see how he can stay in the side as a spec bat at 7 and I can’t see how he can avoid burnout keeping in three formats. Is it a pun for a wicketkeeper to be in a catch-22?

        • A couple of problems with your idea, James. One is that there are only six ODIs before the CT. The CT is our priority. Don’t ask me why. It’s not mine – I think the only game I can remember from the CT is the Browne/Bradshaw partnership over a decade. It’s a competition that the ICC have repeatedly wanted to abolish and they want to do so again so this could well be the last one. But it’s our priority.

          Secondly, Bangladesh can’t now be ignored. This would be an act of spiteful revenge by a governing body. It would be saying (again) that if you defy us and our bogus ‘choices’ we will get you as soon as we can.

          I think Morgan has the job until the CT then will be the scapegoat if England don’t win it. If he doesn’t make runs in the India ODIs then it will become an issue (as it will with Hales).

          • If England don’t play well at the CT and Morgan doesn’t play well then he should set down himself. England got to the WCT20 final despite his on field performances he can’t be a passenger forever. Should take up coaching instead if he is that inspirational

            • Yes he should step down in those circumstances.

              I think Australia are a better ODI side than England. There’s not much Morgan can do about that and a change of captain wouldn’t change it. Think we’ll hear that argument about Morgan if they beat England in the CT? It’s the same argument I’ve been hearing about Cook today.

              I’m sure we don’t want to re-fight the battle of Morgan’s batting stats again – but let’s just say that they can be sliced in ways that make them sound very good (i.e. by taking them from the last WC). He hasn’t been a passenger “forever”.

  • Spot on about Morgan, shouldn’t be ODI or T20 captain. Let Root have a go, but I would keep Cook as test captain, until after next years Ashes. Also sack the selectors, but get rid of Strauss & Flower too.

  • Your comment about Root’s conversion rate is certainly supported by Virat’s (7 centuries and 10 50’s before becoming captain; 7 and 2 after, and an average going from 41 to 60). While I tend to agree with your comments about Cook’s captaincy, I don’t (despite the above) want Root as captain at present. Let him settle into fatherhood (impending) first. The first real problem on this tour is that England have effectively gone back to “bits and pieces” players. Nos 4-9 in the batting order are really all test 6’s and 7’s (and, to make the obvious gag, they’ve been at 6’s and 7’s). This is, admittedly, partly (mostly) because the selectors failed to pick a back up batsman for Ballance and Duckett (already failed and untried respectively).

    The second real problem is that Virat Kohli has been head and shoulders above everyone else in Indian conditions. Cricinfo has an article stating the averages against spinners. England top 7: 36; India top 7 apart from Kohli: 36.5; Kohli 109. It’s a bit rich, incidentally, for James Anderson to say that home conditions “mask Kohli’s flaws”. It sounds like sour grapes, and the same could be said of Jimmy.

    We’ve lost (comprehensively) to a very good Indian team in their back yard, with a young transitional team. This is not a total disgrace, and doesn’t automatically mean sack the captain (although I think he wants to go soon). Australia and South Africa lost in India, probably even more abjectly than England.

    So, what to do? By all means sack the selectors. They don’t seem to be much help. Pick more specialists (we don’t need 6 bowlers). Let Morgan captain the ODI side in India (if it ain’t broke), knowing you have a capable replacement in Buttler if needed. If Cook wants to carry on to the next Ashes, leave him in place. I don’t like using the ODI side as a “learning curve” for the test team; they’re different games (ask Ravi Ashwin).

  • Cook should have been rested for the Bangladesh tour. His mind for obvious reasons hasn’t been right for the whole of this daft winter schedule. Put Root at 4, make him captain with Stokes as a fiery vice-captain, bat Cook at number 3 with the two new boys opening and we should be ok if we can sort out our fairly toothless bowling attack

  • Hahahahahaha
    I can’t believe that after all these years you are all still talking about whether cook should be captain. he was ordained by the most high & mighty to be captain forever. He will still be captain when he’s 75 with every record ever held by any cricketer ever in his pocket. He will still pick his nose and still be extraordinary poor … but that won’t matter because he is the ‘one’
    Of course, another view is that if he has had 39 opening partners already and he’s the only one who remains constant then maybe, just maybe the solution lies in looking at him rather than all the others …. but, then again, he has been ordained …. i jest not and don’t give a fig, this is england, queen of the world!!

  • Not sure that sacking Morgan to give Root limited overs captaincy experience as a sort of work experience placement for the test captaincy (when he’s already VC in the test squad) makes much sense. I can’t think of any good reason to go back to having the same player captaining the test and limited overs sides – particularly in view of workload and scheduling. Surely Buttler is the next limited overs captain?

    Definitely sack Cook, but don’t over complicate matters by combining the captaincy succession with a rather less urgent restructure of the one day side.

    • That would mean a rookie test captain with completely unproven captaincy credentials. I think there’s a strong argument for removing Morgan anyway. Both Steve Smith, Kohli (and Kane Williamson?) captain in all forms. Why can’t Root? All it takes is careful management and giving him rest when needed. It also provides clarity.

      Morgan was appointed as ODI captain (and the captaincy split) because Cook no longer justified a place in the 50 over side. It was simply expedient at the time but the PR men presented it as some kind of masterstroke and the blueprint for modern cricket. Now we have a guy who’s the best player and an automatic pick in all formats, I don’t see the need for split captains any more.

      • James I believe that Kohli is only India’s captain for tests. Dhoni captained the one day side against New Zealand. He only retired from test cricket .

        • Duh! Yes I’d forgotten all about Dhoni. But at 35 years of age I bet it isn’t long before Kohli is king in all formats.

          • Yes I imagine Kohli will take over when Dhoni retires barring accidents. He certainly seems to have the energy, confidence and personality at present to manage all formats. How it works out in practice only time will tell

      • So on the one hand you’re saying that Root is a rookie who lacks captaincy experience while on the other you want to set him the immediate objective of winning the Champions Trophy, which would demonstrate his suitability to take over the test side and lead in all three formats. Hmmm…

        • The one day captaincy always used to be the mechanism whereby the next test captain could cut his teeth before taking the test job. Vaughan was a good example. I liked this system. Besides the test captaincy is more important imho so yes, I don’t see why the ODI team can’t be used to test Root out. Steve Smith took over the Australia ODI captaincy before he took over the test captaincy and it worked fine.

          • Sure, but isn’t one of the themes in cricket these days the evolution of the limited overs game and the reality that the skill set that works best in T20 and 50 overs isn’t necessarily the same thing needed in red ball cricket? You mention Vaughan, but that was a decade ago and things have moved on in that time – I don’t think setting or chasing down targets of 350-400 in ODIs was something he encountered much. Cook captained in all formats and that was hardly a success (…admittedly that’s a flawed example as he hasn’t got any better since being able to concentrate on tests!) Now it’s entirely possible that a player like Root, raised in the modern ers, could succeed as captain in all formats, but with the workload that would involve I just don’t think it’s a sensible idea, and isn’t having specialist captains for the different formats actually the more modern and progressive way that best reflects the way the game is now? I don’t think New Zealand play quite the same volume of cricket as England and at the moment I think the jury’s out on how well things are working out over all for Steve Smith’s captaincy.

            • If Root is the test captain, wouldn’t it be odd if he isn’t the ODI captain too? It would be totally unprecedented. Can you imagine Steve Smith playing in a World Cup as a foot soldier under the leadership of Moises Henriques or another one day specialist? It’s unnatural.

              It would be especially odd because Root is clearly the best player too, while the captain is constantly under pressure for his place.

              I don’t see why it should be the modern way to have split captains. Generally teams have split captains if the test captain isn’t good enough for ODIs or vice versa. Hussain felt that Vaughan led the ODI side so well that it would ultimately undermine his authority as test captain. It made him feel like yesterday’s man and he stood aside.

              • It wouldn’t be totally unprecedented if Root was test captain and somebody else led the limited overs side, would it? That’s exactly the situation we’ve had with Cook and Morgan since shortly before the World Cup when somebody at the ECB (in a rare moment of rational clarity) finally acknowledged that Cook was totally out of his depth in the modern limited overs game and that the team was better led by a specialist. Now you could choose to be cynical about that and conclude that even making Morgan ODI skipper (when he had by then failed in his test career and presented no conceivable threat to Chef’s position as captain of the test side) was a way of shoring up the rest of Cook’s domain. But the the fact is that yit also establishes a contemporary precedent. I don’t really care if Hussein felt threatened by Vaughan back in the early 2000s. That has no more relevance to the needs of the current team than Cook throwing his toys out of the pram after being stripped of the limited overs captaincy. Perhaps if management spelled out the position and the expectations to everybody in advance then nobody need feel unduly threatened so long as they are performing. There’s a natural drift towards a state of affairs in which the limited overs and test teams are seen as separate entities (albeit with some overlapping personnel) so I really don’t see why one player necessarily has to captain both. I’m afraid it seems to me you’re living in the past a little. I sense we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one, James, so I’ll say no more except that of course Root potentially has the skill set to do it all, but if he’s going to be an automatic pick in all formats AND captain every team then with the sheer relentless volume of international cricket these days there’s a very real risk that he’s going to be totally burned out by his early ’30s.

  • I am not anti the selectors I backed them on the Anderson issue that seems to have caused problems for Strauss but as you point out the selections that haven’t worked out are mounting up. I know a lot of people were suggesting a football mangers style system with scouts, humorously at a time when many football clubs are taking player acquisition away from the 1st team coach

    I could certainly back looking at refreshing the men involved but at the end of the day it doesn’t change the talent pool available. Lack Leach should have been with the squad all winter but I don’t think for a second it would have changed the result of any of the matches. England should have brought a different batsmen instead of Ballance, no doubt but I think you would struggle to find a consensus on who that should be.

    Strauss may reflect that no Lions red ball cricket between Jan 2015 and December 16 is too long a gap and that some of the cricket the Lions have played has been against opposition who may struggle to beat a county side in the same conditions.

    • This is my feeling to, and for that Don Straussione has to have some responsibility. The idea that some of the young guns, who are thought to be the most likely to step into the breach if necessary have had no cricket, and especially no cricket in Asia over the last couple of winters when erm, England have been in Asia the last 2 winters is rather telling. Is it any surprise that some of the greener players have looked somewhat lost when having to deal with high class spin bowlers in their own back yard? No, and as well as that I will also point out that as Lions coach, Flower has had a strong hand in getting some of his charges selected. Vince in the last English summer and Dawson for this series now. Now in fairness, it is imossible to completely judge if a player will always be successful, but it seemingly was on Flower’s authority that Vince was put forward last summer so in my view it was he who had some culpability for that. And then we come to Dawson, a 5th bowler at best, who steps into the breach in replacing another erm 5th bowler in Ansari, both of whom either haven’t exactly had sub-continental batsmen quaking in their boots or are highly unlikely to (watch Dawson no get picked and roll India in Chennai!).

      So therefore James’s feeling that Strauss and Flower can pick the England squads is not something that works for me at all given that they’ve had quite an input from a distance (Strauss with his moan at the lack of Anderson at Lord’s too being somewhat counterproductive).

      • I’m not in favour of Strauss / Flower taking over as selectors by the way (!) I just think they might think they can do it :-)

        • I wasn’t having a go James, but that is rather my fear that they have and are doing it despite not having a track record of managing talent at the back end of their careers at the helm of the senior side directly. I see it as dangerous and I am rather aiming my fire at them for some of the occurences in the last couple of years rather than the easy pickings of Cook.

          Don’t get me wrong, for a long time I was spitting feathers at Cook’s semi-deification following the embarrasement in 2013-14 when he failed drastically with bat and as a leader but I’ve long since thought that he was simply only the token mouthpiece for the ECB. Now things have gone rather wrong after a while he’s in the firing line and although I’m hardly one to stick up for his capataincy he’s been dealt a very rotten hand here, both in squad selections, shape of the tours including the Lions tour to UAE at the back end of this tour. For that I would rather look elsewhere than look at the fall guy, which it seems Cook is being set up for by the media.

  • 1. Sack the selectors and don’t appoint replacements
    2. Reintroduce uncovered pitches for the county championship so batsmen and bowlers learn how to play on a wide variety of pitches, rather than on roads
    3. Allow the cricket-supporting public to select the team by means of an internet poll – a version of regression to the mean/the wisdom of the crowd:

    Wikipedia – Core to any statistical analysis is the concept that measurements vary: they have both a central tendency, or mean, and a spread around this central value, or variance. In the late 1860s, Galton conceived of a measure to quantify normal variation: the standard deviation.[31]

    Galton was a keen observer. In 1906, visiting a livestock fair, he stumbled upon an intriguing contest. An ox was on display, and the villagers were invited to guess the animal’s weight after it was slaughtered and dressed. Nearly 800 participated, and Galton was able to study their individual entries after the event. Galton stated that “the middlemost estimate expresses the vox populi, every other estimate being condemned as too low or too high by a majority of the voters”,[32] and reported this value (the median, in terminology he himself had introduced, but chose not to use on this occasion) as 1,207 pounds. To his surprise, this was within 0.8% of the weight measured by the judges. Soon afterwards, in response to an enquiry, he reported[33] the mean of the guesses as 1,197 pounds, but did not comment on its improved accuracy. Recent archival research[34] has found some slips in transmitting Galton’s calculations to the original article in Nature: the median was actually 1,208 pounds, and the dressed weight of the ox 1,197 pounds, so the mean estimate had zero error. James Surowiecki[35] uses this weight-judging competition as his opening example: had he known the true result, his conclusion on the wisdom of the crowd would no doubt have been more strongly expressed.

    • Fascinating stuff Max.

      While the knowledgeable livestock fair attendee of 1906 may indeed have known their chuck from their shank, we probably should remember that 21st century Internet polling gave us ‘Boaty McBoatface’.

  • Is there any captain in the County scene, who has a semi decent skill (bat, bowl, keep), that has an abundance of grunt?

    You only have to look at recent past captains, to understand what I am saying: Australia – Waugh, Ponting, Clarke, Smith. India – Dhoni, Kholi. New Zealand – Fleming, Vettori, McCallum. South Africa – Smith, De Villiers, de Pleiss. There is a common trend here – tough, natural leaders, take no sh*t from management, media and social media (formally known as The Public).

    Joe Root is soft in all those aspects and there is no doubt in my mind that his great batting will suffer. Leave Root to keep doing what he is currently doing as England would be far worse off off if/when his form drops.

    So begs the question, is there a half decent player in the Counties that ticks those boxes?

    Cricket is toughening up, hence the good teams picking the right people in this era. Keeping Cook for the Ashes is probably a “safe” option, but my guess is he will palm it off after the 5th test and focus on his batting, which he is very good at. I have never rated Cook as a captain, and his inability to close out a match will keep haunting him (1st test v India was England’s for the taking, but he fluffed his lines and kept batting. ). That mistake filtered through to the next test and the series was gone.

    Anyone out there?

  • If you are going to sack the selectors you are going to have to sack Flower and Strauss as well. They have been the movers behind the scenes and in charge of the scenes: Lions coach and Director of Cricket. Strauss put Test cricket on the back burner while he concentrated on one day cricket. Flower is interested in promoting his Lions proteges. The inept selections, the incompetence, I’m afraid, runs deep. Strauss appointed Bayliss who specialised in one day cricket. The coach seems hopelessly at sea with Test cricket and his only advice seems to be – when he does step up – is to ask for aggressive batting. The house of cards is falling down. Has fallen. You can’t go to India with inexperience, lack of defensive technique and lack of patience. Who said so? Kohli.

  • ECB is rotten and people seem to have forgotten how poor they are.

    Personally, I liked someone aboves suggestion of uncovered wickets for county cricket.. this might actually produce better batsmen who can actually bat rather than hitters which are common place now.

    Strauss needs to go, flower and all the selectors. Awful, just awful.

    Buttler for capt ?? Really. Root shouldn’t get it either so tbh, I’d just keep cook until someone actually comes along whose good enough to command a spot and we won’t ruin our better player

  • Cook, the selectors and Flower to go. Morgan stays. He is a good captain and the players respect him. Sack him and you send the wrong message. Root would not be my captain, his work load is way too high. KP would have been a good captain but those bridges were burnt a long time ago. I’d have a go with Buttler. It may sort his batting out. Or bring in a recognised county captain at six or seven until a natural leader appears. Is Bairstow an option?
    Agree though, no easy answers but like the ODI team a while back, a change is really needed. Right now the team is rudderless.

  • Awful idea to sacrifice Morgan just because of Cook’s ineptitude. Cool has been protected far too much and sacking someone else in order to remove Cook is the worst idea I have ever heard.

    • There is no perfect solution here. If we do nothing then Cook stays in charge. If we simply appoint Root we’ll have a test captain with zero captaincy experience. What other alternatives are there in the absence of any decent succession planning?

      There’s a strong argument for dropping Morgan simply because he hasn’t been consistent enough with the bat and he’s keeping better players (at this stage of his career) out. You have to twist things around quote a lot to look at my suggestion as ‘sack Morgan because Cook is inept’.

      • It is effectively what you are saying though. There is not a strong argument at all for dropping Morgan at this stage.

        • Here’s an argument for dropping Morgan. He’s no longer one of the best limited overs players in England (if you look at the second half oh his career) and the team didn’t miss his leadership in Bangladesh.

          • I agree with that point of view. However I would give him until the champions trophy.
            If he’s still failing with the bat by then (no matter the results) _ Root takes over both teams

  • This is wonderfully subversive, James. Save Cook by hanging Morgan. It’s the solution that joins all Paul Newman’s dots. It’s good to see parody return to the blog :)

    • I love the way it’s hard to tell how serious I am! I think my suggestion is a great talking point as it leads to so many other subjects we all love to debate. I do think there’s a strong argument for replacing Morgan with Root but I wouldn’t like to make the call myself … and I certainly wouldn’t like to look Morgan in the eye afterwards!

  • Agree about sacking the selectors. In any business too many strikes gets you the sack, and they are way past that point. Selection should be down to a panel of captain, coach and Strauss – as would be the case in any other walk of life. If they get it wrong then their core jobs are on the line.

    I share all the concerns about Root and some more. He is (to say the least) a lightweight personality who, too often, comes across as a pale imitation of Stokes. If we would not promote Stokes to captain (and I would rather see Donald Trump as Pope) then why would we appoint Root? It is possible he could grow into the captaincy and there are several examples of successful captains with what seem to be inappropriate characters – but these, like Close and Illingworth, usually err on the side of abrasiveness. There is the interesting question of whether there is a good skipper outside the test set up who could be called on as a stop gap, but I cannot think of an obvious candidate……except……..what about Bell? County captain, test match pedigree (and still only 34 and fitter than most of the team) and we still have a middle order batting issue (despite the emergence of opening bats).

    Bring Bell back as skipper for 2017. Make Root white ball skipper (to see how he goes) and decide for post 2017 based on events in 2017.

    I am fairly sure (given the record of Lord Strauss and the selectors) that this suggestion is about as likely as Donald Trump becoming the next Pope. They will always act on their own prejudices rather than be prepared to put personal feelings aside in the interests of English cricket.

  • I think he’ll resign. He has that haunted look in his eyes. He’s had it all winter actually. If he doesn’t, he should be sacked. His batting has been no better than “good” as captain and has included some dreadful series, but the thing that has really alarmed me is how, in over 50 Tests, his captaincy barely improved at all. It’s just as wooden as when he started. He simply has no aptitude for it and, apparently, no ability to learn.

    I’d appoint with Root, but only for Tests. This would allow him to rest his brain in T20s/ODIs and relieve him of media duties. Initially, I think he’d step up and score a hatful of runs. This would be the start of a familiar pattern, which typically sees England captains fall into a rut after a couple of years when they start to get overwhelmed by the job and don’t have the time or energy to work on their game so much. Bearing in mind that the ECB knows this will almost certainly happen, might it be an idea to try to mitigate the effects now? Rather than putting our best player through a slump 2 years down the line, how about setting expectations and introducing a bit more flexibility around the captaincy to remove the stigma from stopping doing it? Root could be appointed Test captain with an express statement recognising the demands of the job and saying he might need to temporarily hand it over to one a 2 or 3 vice-captains at some point in the future if he thinks it’s seriously affecting his form. If it’s stated now, then it won’t be a big deal when the inevitable happens in future.

    One other point. I think the days of people gaining captaincy significant experience before becoming England captain are probably behind us. England captains tend to be selected from among the best handful of players, and those players tend to be fast-tracked to International level quickly nowadays. County captains tend to be players who won’t make it internationally, and there’s an increasing separation between T20/ODI and Tests (Root being an exception) so this isn’t likely to be a stepping stone, either. To address this, I’d like to see more emphasis on “Captaincy coaching”. I don’t mean some track-suited management-speaker with a degree in Captaincy from Loughborough University, but rather a “brains trust” of former Test captains from around the world who share their experience in a semi-structured way.

    • As you point out, a boatload of experience has not improved Cook’s captaincy very much, if at all – and it’s not as though Root is a test neophyte; he’s either up to it, or he isn’t.

  • I do wonder about the extent to which “face fits”, “one of us”, “right school”, “right university” “don’t rock the boat” and “favoured county” still operates. I suspect still rather more than is good for the game. Having friends in high places is not and never has been a valid selection criterion.

  • There is nobody better than Cook to replace him and people have short memories after winning the ashes recently against ALL expectations so lets stop all this talking nonsense.

    Unless they have a disastrous series against South Africa, I feel Cook will Captain until the 17/18 Ashes series after which if they lose he will resign for failing to win and if they win he will retire on a high.

    I hope he continues to bat after resigning as skipper and gets a few more hundreds and helps Root settle into the role.

    We have been lucky to have him these last ten years so show some gratitude.



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