Alastair Cook attempts to beat wall down with head

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To reiterate: white clothes = good, coloured clothes = bad

One of Alastair Cook’s problems is that he plays every one-day innings as if it might be his last. He positively clings to the crease, grimly trying not to make a mistake. The better approach might be to play as if he doesn’t give a toss, but say what you like about Alastair – tosses he gives.

Bowlers can do what they like at Cook. It’s like bowling at a cone or a cardboard cut-out. He just sits there passively while you prod away at him with something sharp. After the sixth one-day international against Sri Lanka, Cook said that he was hitting them well in the nets. If he hadn’t actually specified that it was balls he was hitting, you’d think he might have meant walls – using his head.

There are no prizes for effort in cricket and in one-day cricket there aren’t even prizes for runs unless you can score them quickly enough. It doesn’t matter why you drop simple chances or miss straight balls, all that matters is that you do. Cook is.

We don’t blame Cook for hanging about in the one-day team. It’s his job to retain confidence in himself in the face of all evidence to the contrary. Half of the battle of international sport involves bullshitting your opponent that you’re something you’re not. The best way to achieve that is to start off by bullshitting yourself. This is why we pay other people to see things clearly: coaches and selectors, for example.

One of the main reasons why Cook was made one-day captain is because they thought it would undermine him to have someone else in charge of the 50-over side ahead of the next Ashes. The same people who reached that conclusion might now want to consider just what effect an endless series of defeats and humiliating underperformance might be having on their boy.


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  1. Of course the next few months might be a disaster, but the strange thing is, it might not go too badly once we are in Aus.

    I think we have a reasonably good ODI side for Aussie conditions and Cook has a decent track record batting out there.

    If it does go OK, the ECB will paper over the cracks in the administrative system yet again and make the same mistakes all over again. If it does turn out to be a disaster, there will be a fit of liver-eating, something or other will be changed which will yield fruit a couple of years hence and then go pear-shaped in time for 2019.

    Lots to look forward to in the ODI stakes for years to come, then.

    At least we have some intriguing-looking test matches to follow over the Christmas break, even though (or perhaps because) none of them involve England.

    1. I believe that Cook has played about 5 ODIs in Australia. The results are not pretty. Even in Tests, Cook’s record against Australia is about 28, with the exception of one series.

    2. Back of an envelope, Cook’s test average in Aus, circa 50.

      Also bear in mind that we will only be playing one of those WC matches against Aus – unless we (and they) do very well in the tourney.

      We all agree that Cook was the wrong choice as ODI skipper and shouldn’t be playing ODIs at all. My point is that this is precisely the wrong time to drop him, both in the WC cycle (ie just before the tournament) and also given the location of that tournament.

    3. Now do the analysis and remove the only series where he did well against Australia – 4 of those series. By the way, I was talking about ODI stats. Are you Paul Downton? The fact that is that Cook has a poor overall record in Australia.

  2. So because they do this last minute either they stick with Cook, or they jettison him (and presumably Bell also stays dropped), and we end up with a top 4 of Moeen, Hales, Taylor and Root – i.e. one that’s got almost no ODI experience, and Morgan takes over as captain despite being the only person more out of form than Cook. Probably still better than that Strauss, Joyce, Bell top 3 of a few years ago, mind.

    Or FEC Root gets the job, which will undermine Cook.

    Interesting that now Bopara seems undroppable despite being totally jettisoned for the previous series.

    I’d make Bell captain, natch.

    1. It is very true, Daneel. You know that supertanker comparison that people make about things that take a long time to change direction? The ECB is a supertanker, sailing through treacle, firmly anchored down and with no engines or any other mechanism available to make it even move, let alone turn round. The consequence of this is that by the time they do make a decision, under relentless pressure normally, it is so late in the process that what they choose to do instead is half-cocked and almost certain to fail.

      The England set up have completely the wrong idea about dropping players, the captain especially. They seem to think it is an action, an active thing, something that has to be decided on and done. This is the wrong way round. Aeroplanes don’t actively fall out of the sky and crash. Activity is what’s keeping them up there – crashing to the ground is the default position. The ECB should ask what things Cook brings to the team for the World Cup, and when they can’t think of any their decision ought to be made for them. Batting? No. Batting even if he gets his form back? Not really. Captaincy? Are you having a laugh? With no compelling reasons to have him in the side, he simply oughtn’t to get a place.

    2. He’s in the team so that when they lose to Scotland in the World Cup he can say: “Ahhhm, yeah pretty disappointed? But we learned a lot from this game going forward and we’re pretty confident we can…Ahhhm…come out firing next time.”

    3. Yes, which is equally wrong-headed. They say they don’t want to undermine confidence in the test captain by not having him as ODI captain also. If he needs this in order that the test team have confidence in him, he is not the man for the job by definition. There is no shadow of doubt that he was appointed captain on the basis of some vague sense of rightness about him – his voice, his family, his background – and not on his captaincy ability. The assumption is that these sort of people make good captains because they just do.

      I would ask the ECB to list the criteria by which they appoint and judge a captain, and then ask them how he’s stacking up.

    4. Heh.

      Cook went past Strauss as England’s most capped ODI captain in the last game, apparently.

      Did anyone mention that?

      I can’t think of an England ODI captain worth a place in the World Cup team since Gooch in 1991. Atherton, Hussain, Vaughan, Strauss?

    5. The fact that Cook is the most capped as captain is particularly damning. He hardly played ODIs before becoming captain, because everyone knew he was no good at them. Yet now he’s Test captain, he has to play.

      I was wrong about WC captains though, thought it was Hussain in 99, but it was Stewart.

  3. “One of the main reasons why Cook was made one-day captain is because they thought it would undermine him to have someone else in charge of the 50-over side ahead of the next Ashes”. So basically you’re saying that we have a man who’s ego is so fragile that if we ask him to step down from a format which he clearly sucks at, and tell him to focus on the form of the game which seems to matter a lot more to the English public, his self-esteem is going to go so far down the drain that he’ll be unable to perform at this level? Bear in mind we are talking about one of the greatest batsmen England has produced in a long time?

    1. We’re not saying that this is our opinion or even that Cook necessarily feels like that, but that is how he found himself in this position. That is the ECB’s view.

    2. Intriguing point – whether this really is down to the ECB or whether this mess is largely Cook’s doing.

      Clearly a bit of both, but I think of it as primarily an ECB muddle, the latest in a long line of similar. Daisy sees it as stemming primarily from Cook’s arrogance, as she cannot believe that even the ECB would have cocked up this badly if Cook had simply been saying, “it’s up to you guys”.

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