Alastair Cook: A Protected Species?

English cricket’s critics have often claimed that the ECB is too cosy. There’s a perception the board is elitist, somewhat insular, and operates a bit like an old boys’ club. Whilst this might be something of an exaggeration, the ECB sure seem to like their favourites. If your face fits, and you don’t rock the boat, you’ll probably go far … just ask James Whitaker.

Giles Clarke’s famous remark that Alastair Cook was ‘a very good role model and he and his family are very much the sort of people we want the England captain and his family to be’ summed it up really. We’d all suspected the ECB were a bit stuffy for a long time, but here was clear proof, in black and white, that class (or image) played a role in the ECB’s decision making. Was looking the part, and sounding the part, actually more important than being able to play the part?

I’ve written extensively about Alastair Cook over the years. I find him fascinating. He’s often been portrayed as an alpha male even though he stutters in front of the cameras and is far too ‘nice’ to be a macho man. And through no fault of his own he’s long had the nation’s hopes fastened to his shoulders – even though he’s never really shown any aptitude to be a leader whatsoever. He’s certainly not a natural one.

Cook has always been treated as a precious commodity – like an aunt’s favourite antique vase – throughout his career. He’s supposedly strong yet extremely sensitive to criticism; he wields an iron rod yet the best observers can say about his captaincy is that he ‘leads from the front’. Basically Alastair is a paradox.

And of course, when he’s suffered prolonged periods of poor form (and appeared technically brittle) he’s always been given extra time to turn it around – a luxury few other openers have had. I’ve often wondered whether this is because he’s a harmless and genuine guy – in other words he’s made a lot of friends and everyone wishes him well  – or whether it’s some kind of bias or favouritism at play?

Although Cook’s supporters might argue that England have kept faith because his record suggests runs are just around the corner, try telling that to the likes of Graham Thorpe, who was dumped unceremoniously before the 2005 Ashes despite having an injection a few days beforehand that was supposed to see him through the international summer. Thorpe hadn’t even stopped scoring runs. If you’re slightly abrasive, anti-establishment (or something of a loner) you always seem to get a shorter rope in English cricket. Alastair on the other hand, with his good manners and quintessentially Waitrose persona, seems to have friends in high places.

Once again history seems to be repeating itself. Despite making a pig’s ear of his last three test series in charge, in which he made some mind-boggling tactical decisions and appeared somewhat disinterested / weary in the field, there’s still no apparent desire to sack Cook (or at least ask him to resign). Indeed many pundits are nonsensically arguing that Alastair has earned the right to determine his own future.

I find this last bit utterly bizarre. In professional sport careers are defined by results and results alone. In what other sport would someone who’s failing badly in their role be allowed the luxury of determining their own future? Even Sir Alf Ramsey was eventually sacked. Sport is a cutthroat business … unless you’re Alastair Cook it seems.

Like many people I belief Cook’s position is untenable. And I simply don’t understand why he’s still being treated like a special case. None of England’s other recent (long-term) captains got away with such a long period of depressing team form, so why should Alastair be any different? Here are the records of England’s other captains immediately before they either resigned or were privately pushed:

Michael Vaughan won 4, drew 4 and lost 4

Nasser Hussain won 4, drew 3 and lost 5

Andrew Strauss won 3, drew 2, lost 6

Cook’s record in his last 11 tests is won 3, drawn 1, lost 7. That’s worse (and in some cases substantially worse) than all England’s previous leaders … none of whom survived the aftermath of a big series loss (let alone a humiliation in Bangladesh). Yet once again Cook is the exception.

Cook’s recent record is very nearly as bad as the ill fated and very short-lived tenure of Andrew Flintoff, whose record was won 2, drawn 2 and lost 7. And of course, whereas Freddy was unable to survive an Ashes whitewash, England actually sacked their best batsmen to protect Cook after his team were thrashed 0-5. It’s one rule for Cook and quite another for everyone else.

What’s more (and this is the thing I find hardest to understand) it’s not exactly like Cook should be living off past glories either. He has always been an adequate captain at best. In fact, his overall record is the worst of all his immediate predecessors.

Cook – won 24, drawn 13, lost 22 (59 games)

Strauss – won 24, drawn 11, lost 15 (50 games)

Vaughan – won 26, drawn 14, lost 11 (51 games)

Hussain – won 17, drawn 13, lost 15 (45 games)

Although Alastair’s record is pretty similar to Hussian’s (and his win percentage is fractionally higher) let’s not forget that England were ranked dead last in the world in Nasser’s early years as skipper. Naz and Duncan Fletcher grabbed a poor team by the scruff of the neck and made them very respectable. By contrast Cook has taken a team that were ranked number 1 in the world not long before he took charge and arguably taken them backwards.

As I said earlier in this piece, I have always been fascinated by what I once called the cult of Alastair Cook. Sometimes I think his career very clearly demonstrates the foibles of the ECB: its curious worldview, fondness for all-English boys, and suspicion and distain for outsiders. Or perhaps Alastair has just been very lucky in that he’s played in a period where England have had no realistic alternative captains? Just like there were no alternative test quality openers when he endured his alarming slumps in form.

This, I guess, is what I’m going to refer to as the Cook Conundrum from now on. Why is it that the worst captain England have had in recent times is also our longest serving captain? It’s a ridiculous state of affairs when one puts it so simply.

And yet still the ECB seem in no rush whatsoever to move on from Cook. Even though, for the first time in a long time, a viable alternative candidate is ready and waiting to take over – a potential captain who not only has an aggressive mind-set that dovetails far better with England’s coach and attacking young players, but a potential captain who could also lead the side in all three formats (and so bring balance to The Force).

And yet people are still finding conservative reasons to hold Root back. And it’s all to prolong the reign of England’s longest serving yet least effective leader of recent times. It’s more than a little weird, don’t you think?

James Morgan


  • People in support of Cook still seem to be in the mindset that he’s “learning the ropes”. One day, he’s gonna be one hell of a captain

  • He is “one of us, old boy” – an approach that has dogged so many areas of the UK for years. Once these people are “in”, they stay “in” regardless.

  • Well, this is an interesting one! As you say England would then have a captain for all forms of the game (and Eoin Morgan’s current form doesn’t merit a place in either the ODI or T20 teams, so this is a relevant issue: I’d replace him with Billings). As a batsman, I think Cook still makes the top 3 of the order (with Jennings and Hameed: I want Root at 4), but the emergence of those 2 means Cook is not as vital as before at the top of the order. The middle order needs sorting out (Moeen is a fine cricketer, but not a test no 4). Maybe the extra responsibility would do Buttler good? Whilst Anderson is also (probably) coming to the end of his career, I’m not too worried about the pace bowling, but we need a specialist spinner.

    • Just as a thought, why would you not make Buttler the ODI and T20 captain, and Root test captain? Takes some of the pressure off both, and appoints the best people for the job.

      • I understand the case for making Buttler our white ball captain. He did a decent job in Bangladesh – plus he talks nicely ;-)

        However, my personal view is that it would be better (and clearer) to have one captain in all forms. To prevent burn out I’d simply give Root time off when necessary. I’d go the Australia / NZ route where Smith and Williamson (the best players) are clearly in charge.

        • After today there might be just a hint of a question mark over whether Root is one of our top five limited overs batsmen – that in the context of our currently enjoying an embarrassment of riches in that department. Of course he played well, but perhaps for the over all game situation he needed to have accelerated a little more? Obviously Morgan’s batting is a bigger concern, although at the moment there might just be big score round the corner for him. Heaven knows he’s going to need one. He’s not Alastair Cook, so even a little thing like a promising over all upwards trajectory in the team’s performances since he took over isn’t going to save him.

  • It will be a travesty if Root isn’t given this summer as captain before the Ashes tour. I admire Cook hugely as a batsman but have never liked his captaincy. The ECB have always been slow to act. I cringe every time I think of Cook and Bell going out to open in an ODI.

    • When Bell and Cook opened together, Bell averaged 45, Cook 33. However Bell was dropped to make way for Hales to partner Cook in ODIs. After Cook was sacked just prior to the WC Bell was brought back to open in the Tri-Series between Australia, India and England. Bell topped ALL the batsmen in that Series with a SR of 103, Ave 61, 247 runs. This Series has since disappeared from any kind of assessment of the team who played in the WC shambles. There’s a recent animation showing Bell being dropped because of his WC SR 77! This is an injustice to Bell. The WC was a debacle. All the other players were worse than Bell. The skipper Morgan barely got a run in the WC but was resurrected. Someone has to put the record straight.
      Most runs in Tri-Series before World Cup
      Player Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 0 4s 6s
      IR Bell (ENG) 5 5 1 247 141 61.75 239 103.34 1 1 1 27 1
      SPD Smith (AUS) 5 4 1 226 102* 75.33 244 92.62 1 0 0 19 2
      DA Warner (AUS) 4 3 0 163 127 54.33 155 105.16 1 0 0 23 0
      GJ Maxwell (AUS) 5 4 0 152 95 38.00 161 94.40 0 1 1 20 1

      The team has moved on but let’s not make up the narrative. Bell still holds the record for the most ODI runs despite having Cook preferred ahead of him by coach Flower for so many years. Bell has since shown his prowess as one day captain for Warwickshire. Blatant favouritism when Flower promoted Cook into the one day side to captain when he wasn’t even in the squad. Bell finally got to open in ODIs when KP and Flower fell out over his KP’s work load. I fear the Cook favouritism did Bell no favours in his career. But “cringe”? So tell me, you cringed when Bell was Man of the Series v West Indies? When Bell starred in the 4-0 drubbing of Australia? Or averaged 45 in the drawn Series v South Africa? When he got a century against India in the Series England lost 2-3 and averaged 58? Or even in the ill-fated Series post Ashes drubbing in 2014 Bell averaged 41? Never mind. I’m sure you think that every time Bell opened with Cook he was a loser.

      • At last someone else that sees the awful treatment IRB received. The one success of our side in WC15 was the bell Ali opening partnership.

  • The numbers don’t tell a very thrilling tale, do they? But much worses than that is the way the wheels fell off in India, after a passable start in Rajkot (albeit that was turned from a win into a draw by Cook delaying his declaration absurdly long). Anyone else, and the management would have decided by now that (a) he wasn’t much of a captain at his best, whenever that was, (b) he is past that best and couldn’t lead the team out of a paper bag, and (c) it almost doesn’t matter who gets the job instead. His batting seemed to be holding up until deep into the India series, and is probably good for a year or two. But it is way past time for change. It is a bit like the stage at which Atherton replaced Gooch, and the team was briefly rejuvenated (albeit the quality wasn’t really there to make it last).

  • But you must remember:

    * he is young
    * he is learning
    * he will grow i to the job
    * he has a ‘young’ team around him
    * he is marvellous in the dressing room (just ask Peter Moores)

    I am sick and tired od this pussyfooting around. The sooner he goes the better. My main feeling about Cook these days after being a fan for some time, is one of total and utter contempt for his sense of entitlement, his petula nce and his inability to ever admit he is in the wrong. I do wonder deep down if he is ashamed of his spineless behaviour back in the day, but so ehow I doubt it. Cannot wait to see the back of him. At least then we will be spared the endless shots of him standing in the field pixking his nose.

    • I don’t dislike Cook but I’m surprised he hasn’t been a little embarrassed by recent performances and done the decent thing. As I point out in my piece, Vaughan and Hussain (and Strauss) all resigned after enduring a run for form that wasn’t actually as bad as Alastair’s … and yet still he can’t seem to let go. It comes across as very stubborn.

      • Alice tells him what to do, and she likes the extra wages that Alistair brings in while he’s Captain.
        It might sound facetious, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it weren’t a little bit of the truth.

      • I can’t agree with that. These are different times but in the past he has stayed on because he was needed and was persuaded to do so. It is Root who is/was being protected much of the time.

        Btw! ‘Waitrose persona’! How could you? Cross face!

    • Ah no disguising the motive of this KP brown nose …. the laughing thing is your petty bitchy comment and then have the nerve to call him petulant ….. something nobody who knows him would ever label him as ……. he captained great in the ashes series and is our record runs scorer and is very well respected by players young and old throughout the world …… you think any other player could have achieved more in india without a single international class spinner at his disposal …… you know nothing about the game ……. getting criticised by saddo non-achievers like you counts for absolutely nothing so don’t kid yourself otherwise

      • Some nice “alternate facts” there ;)

        Cook’s been a very good player for England. But he’d be a long way down the list of “Good Tactical Captains”

  • James. I agree that Cook’s tenure seems to be dragging on and it ought be Root’s time. Three thoughts:

    Vaughan and Strauss quit as captains and players. Hussain didn’t last long after resigning. So is the situation with Cook slightly different? He has potentially many years left playing for England, and returning to the ranks may not be easy. There is no hurry and letting it run its course (assuming Cook does go) may not be a bad thing.

    Root is our best batsman and has the potential to break Cook’s records I feel he stays fit etc. Why burden our best player with captaincy when, I think, averages tend to get worse with the burden. Certainly Vaughan went from c50 to c35.

    I wonder if this is Strauss’ big test. Taking the tough, but right decision to ensure England had a new captain in the summer. If he can’t or won’t then he’s damned himself as a failure and part of the establishment.

    Finally, I don’t think an England with Cook at the helm with be a match for a Smith lead Australia… so however it comes, ‘all change please’

    • Hi TC. I agree that it would be awkward and not entirely easy for Cook to return to the ranks. I’ve written about this before although I appear to be in the minority on this one!

      I was once worried that Root’s form could be affected by the captaincy too but I’ve come to believe that England shouldn’t think negatively. Both Kohli, Williamson and Smith have gone from strength to strength with the bat since becoming captain. Root is our equivalent champion so let’s head in the same direction. New era etc!

      • A pretty consistent pattern from recent years is that he’ll score a stack of runs initially then lose form as the demands of the job start to wear him down.

      • Why would it be so tough for Cook to return to the ranks ?

        He’s a good batsman, a poor captain, and supposedly possesses remarkable mental toughness. Why the concern with ‘burdening’ Root with the captaincy, and no corresponding enthusiasm for relieving Cook of the burden ?
        There is no logical reason for keeping him in post.

        And why the concern about there being ‘no alternative’ when he’s so obviously mediocre (or worse) as captain in any event ?
        What do we have to lose – and why does no one imagine there might be an upside to appointing a new captain ?

      • Darren Gough thinks that Cook should stay on till the end of the Ashes because Root will not offer anything different.

        I’m not in a position to know the truth of that but he is largely untried as a captain. His day will come, it’s going to happen but maybe those who know feel he’s not quite ready.

        On the other hand, as has been suggested, perhaps they are looking to make him captain of all three formats should Morgan not come good.

        I would be happy to see Cook step down. He looks weary and out of sorts. He was never really suited to the job but he’s done his best. It saddens me to see him denigrated for not always being successful at a job for which he was never suited.

        • Yes I agree Jenny. It’s the ECB and certain journos that have put him on a pedestal ever since he was 19 years old (presumably because he looks the part) and Cook never asked to be FEC. But then again his stubbornness really doesn’t help. He should resign … just like his predecessors did.

          • He has said he will do what is best for the team and I can’t see any reason to doubt his sincerity.

            I suspect he will go unless persuaded to stay. He doesn’t take part in social media but he seems to know what goes on here.

            • Do you think Cook would stay in a job he’s fed up with, and not particularly good at, just to protect Root? I severely doubt that.

            • The trouble is he may have an entirely different view to most of us as to what is “best for the team.” Remember his reaction when he was sacked as limited overs captain? Has he exhibited any insight at all into his own limitations as a tactician and leader? Yet still the decision is his to make rather than his employer’s.

  • Cook needs to be sacked and he definitely does not in my opinion deserve to right to choose when he goes.

    The team is not going forward anymore and we are not much further forward if at all from when he should have been sacked in Jan 2014.

    I fear it may happen that he goes but like with his ODI tenure it could be left too late to make a difference for the Ashes.

    • Ian, I agree to a point. Cook is England’s leading test run scorer and longest serving captain. Whether he should or not is not his fault – the ECB could have sacked him. Given this, and that he’s not done anything wrong (by that I mean bring the game into disrepute) there is something human about letting him step down with dignity. If you weren’t up to your job would you prefer you boss gave you a chance to go rather than be fired?

      Of course if Cook doesn’t take the opportunity, then I hope, as I said earlier, Strauss is the “alpha male” and sacks him for all the reasons you give.

      • He’s already had ample chance to step aside with dignity.

        Being a limpet is admirable if you’re an opening batsman; not so much if you’re a mediocre captain.

        • I am not against letting him resign quietly or leaving the captaincy by mutual consent but the ECB do need to act here and make a change.

          Neil below makes a good point about why should he keep his job and I still don’t see anyone make a good case about why he should stay.

          • I’m against it – the time has passed.

            Indecisive as captain; indecisive in letting go of the captaincy. Thank him for his service, and sack him.

    • The team not moving forward isn’t down to cook. It’s down to the ECB and the counties simply not producing test quality batsmen/bowlers/keepers. The ecb have managed to produce a system that produces hitters and the test arena will pay the price.

      Sure cook isn’t great but there are no viable options, I certainly don’t jump on the media bandwagon for root.. he’s not exactly shown any more about than cook anyway.

      Stokes isn’t all that, although again.. the bandwagon deems him test clas batter and bowler.. now should captain., don’t be stupid.. he’s a petulant child.. the day he’s a leader is a very bad day.

  • Honestly I’m baffled.
    I’ve supported Cook over the years and still do as a cricketer but you used the word in the article. His position is bloody untenable.
    I get wanting to give him an honourable exit, but let’s be honest he should have been sacked on the plane home.
    I saw a school of thought that they may be waiting for Morgan to fail in the CT so they can relieve both at the same time and use the banner of “moving onto a new era”

    Some people say there’s no rush as we don’t play until July, what they can’t tell me is why Cook SHOULD keep his job. Can anyone here?

    • Hi Neil. I totally agree. I’ve also argued (at various stages) that it might make sense to delay a decision until after the CT so that Root can be announced as the new captain in all formats … but what if Morgan actually does well? This whole thing smacks of playing for time so that the whole crisis blows over.

  • Is the fact that they’ve delayed the announcement until after the limited overs matches in India a sign that he is going? Root is in India would be distracted by the attention but he comes back he can do the press conferences and the hand shakes.

  • He comes across as one of those guys who knows he is not a naturally charismatic leader (or “alpha male” as you put it), but rather than just getting on with doing the best he can, feels extremely bitter about it and shows signs of jealousy towards other, more naturally charismatic and talented cricketers, and will look for any opportunity to throw them under the bus.

    The result is someone stubborn and pig-headed, incredibly thin-skinned and paranoid, two-faced and selfish.

    The worse things get, the more he will dig his heels in and blame everyone but himself.

  • Uninspiring and tactically clueless. No apparent feel for the game’s situation. No sense of urgency. It was embarrassing enough when he started, but what’s surprised me is that he’s barely improved in 59 Tests! Normally people learn. How can anyone so thick go so far?

    • Because the ECB bet the farm on him, that’s why! After KP was thrown under the bus the ECB and the compliant and supine media have almost turned him into a deity, all to reinforce their own gutless weaselry!

  • Couldn’t agree more James. I can’t wait for Root to take over the reins and join the Kohli/Williamson/Smith club. Cook will be fine going back into the ranks, I don’t see any problem with that whatsoever.

    His captaincy will be shown up very quickly I think. I believe we will see the same thing happen with the test team as happened with the one day side once he was finally prised out.

    • I hope it’s nothing like the one day side.. collapses galore, a few big scores and claims of attacking intent, new brand of cricket, playing with freedom.. all excuses not to bat properly basically and get away with it.

  • Cook reminds me somewhat of MS Dhoni. Both of them are very good cricketers, but not exactly great captains (Dhoni was way better in the ODIs though). Like Dhoni, Cook is also too conservative and seem to play not to lose rather than to win. England should have won the first test, which they didn’t thanks to Cook’s negativity.

    Our performances in Test matches have markedly improved ever since Kohli was made captain, all the newer captains such as Smith, Williamson & Kohli are all young and aggressive cricketers, and it reflects in their team’s performance as well. Root falls under the same criteria, better give him the captaincy now rather than later. England seem to treat the captaincy as a burden, but the other captains have taken to it quite well, and have actually improved with the added responsibility.

    • Great stuff Paul. Good to have an Indian perspective. India, NZ and Australia have all embraced their future with Kohli, Williamson and Smith. Why are England so reluctant to do so? Is it our natural conservatism or a bias / favouritism towards the establishment’s favourite son?

      • India would win at home under any captain.

        Aus have not been good and are only looking good now as they are batting on roads and against a very very poor Pakistan team.

        Nz just leaked 600 runs vs Bangladesh!!!

        ,all this talk about ‘aggressive’ cricket is trash., what you mean is ‘white ball mentality ‘.. basically hit or bust cricket

        • Tell that to England when they beat us 2-1 in 2012. Kohli’s form has only got better ever since he was made captain. Steve Smith has also gotten better. Williamson has done well as captain so far, I would say.

          • I think there are two questions here:

            1. Does captaincy affect an individual’s performance? Smith, Kohli and Williamson demonstrate that it doesn’t have to.

            2. Are those three young guns good captains? I’m not convinced yet.

    • I agree with almost all of that. However, Australia’s recent performances aren’t that impressive – thrashed in Sri Lanka and loosing to South Africa at home. They beat a disappointing Pakistan at home but if they loose heavily in India (which I must admit I hope they do) then I wonder if we will hear mutterings of replacing Smith with Warner as captain.

      • I agree with a lot of that too, India’s results are great at home but Kohli didn’t escape criticism (particularly with Nasser) for negative tactics.
        Of course Kohli’s biggest test is winning away.

    • England’s board has always been conservative, like you mention. Cook is not the future, keep him as a senior player and batsman, but it would be best to made someone else the captain. I had many arguments with Mike Selvey over at the guardian when Cook was going through his lean patch and his supporters were talking about his ‘inner steel’ and calling the rest of us ‘outside cricket’. So I have no love for the ECB. He looks the part, so the ECB seem desperate to keep him.

  • Hmm. Good piece and lays it all out clinically and professionally. Any other captain would have resigned or would have been pushed. If Cook is truly the answer then his average of losing tests will creep up and his overall losing potential will leave him with a very poor legacy.

    Clarke, Dowtown and now this current lot of losers at the ECB showing all the holes in its armour. Strauss also showing his expertise in ECB failure. Establishment marches on digging its hole ever deeper. Gee whizz you couldn’t make it up.

  • I know that there are nearly 6 months before England don whites again but there is no clear thinking, no leadership from the England management. It seems as though that at least some in their management want Cook to stay on? To me, if Cook stays on for the next year then I can see no better than at best, a shared series v SA (who are a pretty good away side and haven’t lost in England since 1998) and a very comprehensive win for Australia.

    There doesn’t seem to me to be a shared plan betweeen Cook and Bayliss, the latter favouring more attacking cricket with the former all too ready to listen to Anderson and carry out a bowling dry approach that hasn’t worked either. Of course the lack of specialist batsmen coming through is a bit of an issue and we need to find a genuine fast bowler or 2 to invest in.

    In many respects I don’t blame Cook for much of this. I thought he should have been sacked 3 years ago at the end of the whitewash. Yet the ECB decided that their version of Mao’s ‘Great Leap Forward’ was to invest in Cook as captain for their bright future. Well that bright future since Jan 2014 is W15 D7 L16. It is the ECB who continued to ‘invested’ in him and at various points, post the Sri Lanka 2014 series and the 4th day debacle at Headingley, the drawn series v West Indies, we were still subjected to the stuff about ‘inner steel, ‘there is no alternative’ in what were graphic illustrations of a man who doesn’t have a clue when opposition batsmen show signs of a bit of grit. Then there are a large number of journalists who have been a pathetic embarrasment in promoting him to this mythical being as you right say , James. What we have now is a bit of a mess and if it doesn’t get sorted out soon things could potentially ruin several decent and promising player in my opinion. But, you need to get the most out of them and with the set-up as it is I just can’t see it.

    I do give credit to Cook for showing some signs of improvement in the last Ashes series and the SA away series last year, but when things have been tougher he just doesn’t seem to have the imagination to manage his bowlers and take the attacking option when necessary. And then there is his batting impact, 5 tons in the last 48 games anyone? There you go, I’m pessimistic at the best of times but I am more so at the moment.

  • The simple explanation is that from the episode of Blackadder featuring the Baby Eating Bishop of Bath and Wells. Cook has the preliminary sketches of Strauss in a compromising position.

    More seriously, I remain of the view that Cook’s longevity is as much to do with a lack of alternatives as anything else. Whilst Root may be the anointed successor, he has no captaincy experience and a personality which, whilst likeable, resembles Stokes Lite. And it is difficult to see any alternative to Root as most players either are uncertain of their test place, ageing or ruled out despite a decent captaincy record (Woakes). And there are those with the flaky temperament such as Moeen Ali (who I much admire – but not as skipper!) and Botham’s Mini-Me, Stokes.

    More than anything this situation is a condemnation of the failure of the ECB to plan properly for Cook’s successor. When replacing a CEO you start years in advance and ensure there are several possible candidates. The ECB could not plan a calendar years in advance.

    • I agree with all of this but it would be easier to plan for a replacement captain if there was a likely looking talent pool from which to choose.

      Apart from Root the well looks dry and as you say he is untried. To my mind he doesn’t look a lot more suitable than Cook ever did. We are back where we started. There is no other.

      • You’ve hit the nail on the head Jenny. If county cricket is the feeder for the test team, the ECB should be in there raising standards and planning ahead. Can’t believe that, in a country of over 60 million people, cricket struggles to produce one spinner and one person with captaincy skills.

        • The struggles are not limited to cricket but it does t appear to interest anyone to actually deal with the many reasons as to why.

          • Its not a problem for just England.
            Australia, NZ & SA can barely produce a spinner either

            As for a captain, players get promoted to test cricket these days so quickly that they learn at that stage.
            You’ve no idea who’s capable until you try them. Kohli, Smith & Williamson would have barely captained outside of the national sides.
            Root looks a natural to me, but you won’t know until you try. Cook never looked a natural.

      • Cook had very little captaincy experience when he took the job either. But that didn’t stop him being thrust into the role.

        • I’m not sure if this is true for county cricket but In the old days when we played less international cricket, Australian players could be both state captain and test cricketers. Thus players could gain captaincy experience at first class level and then graduate to captain of the test team. In fact, some players were simultaneously captain of their state and of the Australian team. It seems these days that there is little chance for a player from any country learning the ropes of captaincy at first class level before being thrust into the job of captain of the test side.

          • Yes that was indeed the case in county cricket. Think it stopped with Atherton (don’t remember him captaining Lancs) and then with the advent of central contracts they barely play.

            Of course Cook will have about 8 championship games this summer but he’s not Essex captain.

  • The trailing of possible dates by the media for the meeting between Strauss and Cook but lack of any news of the outcome is a puzzle. There’s almost certainly stuff going on behind the scenes (while the ODIs in India and speculation about Morgan’s future provide a convenient smoke screen). Here’s another theory as to what might be happening, which is of course pure unfounded speculation on my part. What if the review meeting has in fact taken place? What if Strauss actually did tell Cook (all softly softly) that everyone could see that the captaincy was placing a strain on him and suggest that – particularly in view of recent results for the team – now might be a good time to stand down with dignity and let Joe have his chance, but that he wanted Chef to stay on, rekindle his batting mojo, go on to smash every record in the book and help England get back to No.1 in the World? What if Cook’s reaction was to come over all Mr Petulant Entitlement, accuse Strauss of betrayal, say like Hell he’d stay on if he lost the captaincy and defy Strauss to sack him? Effectively there would now be a Mexican stand-off in progress: Strauss with the power to sack vs. Cook with the contacts to (as Malcolm Tucker put it) “marshal all the media forces of darkness” to ensure that Strauss and the ECB would be demonised for having supposedly driven out (ahem) England’s greatest ever player. I mean it would have to work out that way, wouldn’t it? The MSM hacks would look even more idiotic than they already do in respect of their coverage of Cook if they all suddenly did an about face and said that actually he’s a bit overrated and that no one player is bigger than the team. Perhaps I have an evil imagination, and obviously I don’t know whether Cook wants to remain at the helm or not, but just thought I’d throw this scenario out there for what it’s worth.

  • Joe Root has today, again stood up for Cook as captain. Is Joe not up for the captaincy then? If not, Strauss should look elsewhere. Not much progress if Cook remains because the vice captain isn’t interested.

    • Brezhnev was outwardly loyal to Khrushchev before the latter was got rid of. At least that’s what Sky (sorry, did I say “Sky”? I meant of course “Pravda”) reported. I wouldn’t get too hung up on these public statements of loyalty. Although I would be a touch concerned if it emerged that Root really does thinks Cook is a great captain. That would not be a hopeful sign.


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