Alastair Cook finally works out that he doesn’t much like being England captain

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Alastair Cook

After four-and-a-half years and 59 Test matches, Alastair Cook has finally thought to himself: “Wait a minute, this is a rubbish a job and I don’t actually have to do it.”

It sometimes seems like every England captain’s career is simply a long, slow deduction that the honour and prestige don’t remotely outweigh all the millions of negatives. By the end of the India tour, Cook had the downbeat, dejected air of someone who had finally attained clarity.

After all this time, we’re still not entirely sure what particular qualities Alastair Cook brought to the job. He wasn’t an innovator or a rabble-rousing public speaker. He progressed from ineptitude with the press to speaking honestly and fairly informatively by the end, but it was never what you’d call a strength.

As we wrote a couple of months ago, with one obvious exception all of the players seemed to support him, which was a pretty decent achievement. A decreasingly competitive England side remained on an even keel, despite that creeping mediocrity. His team didn’t implode. Would Cook have won a lot more with a few better players or did he prevent the team from fulfilling its potential? Hard to say for definite, but personally we’re inclined towards generosity on this one. We might get a clearer idea when Joe Root takes over.

Concern that captaincy will somehow undermine Root’s batting seems peculiarly British being as we only have to look back as far as the present day to find examples of players who’ve improved on already high standards after taking over as leaders of Test teams (Virat Kohli and Steve Smith).

Admittedly, Cook himself was the opposite. But then the corollary of this is that he might now revert to being one of the most effective openers in Test history, which is the kind of thing that might well come in handy.

To Alastair Cook! [Somewhat bizarrely toasts him with a halloumi and tomato barmcake due to time of day and an uncharacteristic selection at the café just now.]


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  1. “Wait a minute, this is a rubbish a job and I don’t actually have to do it.”

    I have the very same thought several times a day.

    Then I get home and my wife reminds me the water bill needs paying.

    1. If Joe Root took over from you, Sam, would it affect his batting?

      I think part of the issue with Root as Test captain is that he’s a mainstay in the limited overs teams as well, which could then lead to a change in the dynamic within those sides. I suppose it is a bit odd to automatically assume that being captain makes you less likely to play well, but it’s a difficult assumption to shake off with regard to England.

  2. Actually, Cook’s batting had picked up again in the last year or so. Not sure that lightening the load on him will provide as much of a fillip as we’ve made out in this article – except insofar as he might have reverted to 2014 form had he carried on as captain.

    1. Be interesting to see what happens if he ends up at 3 – that could be more of a boost than losing the captaincy. Then again, he could have a bad summer, England will declare his eyes have gone, and he will be on the scrapheap at 33 like every other England player.

      Cook was more a custodian than a captain – trying his best to keep the place tidy until an actual captain came along. Along the lines of what you said, we will see whether that method has got the best out of a mediocre bunch of players or whether it has failed to ignite an exciting, talented young side.

  3. I really am incredibly upset about this.

    This is not what I expect from my country.

    This is not the England that I grew up in, know and love.

    This is some other, dystopian England, which makes no sense to me whatsoever.

    Halloumi and tomato barm cake?

    Please tell me this is some sort of joke, KC? Or that the predictive text/speech interpretation software made a mess of your intended phrase.

    Ham and potato pasty barm cake? Now that would make sense.

  4. According to Jonathan Agnew, of the six people who have captained England in more than 40 tests, Cook’s record is only fourth best. Only Atherton and Hussein have worse records. Given the quality of bowling available to Cook, that’s a fairly damning statistic.

    As I said a few weeks ago, he brought absolutely nothing to the job – no tactical nous, no innovation, no leading by strength of will, no bringing out the best in people. In fact, you can make a good case that he brought the worst out in people, that he made sows’ ears out of silk purses. One is left with the distinct impression that, as was famously said at the time, he was genuinely chosen on the rightness of his family.

    Whatever else we need from the new captain, it is that he adds to the sum of the parts, not subtracts from it. That’s all you can ask of a captain, that the team is at least a bit better with him in charge than it would be without.

    1. While that’s perhaps fair criticism for the most part, I’d have to take exception to the part about making sows’ ears out of silk purses. His lack of innovation and charisma might not have driven them on, but there were few distractions or complications and it was a very stead ship.

      I’d argue that Cook built a team was exactly the sum of it’s parts. Like a man diligently following the instructions for assembling a well built but otherwise unremarkable flat-pack wardrobe.

  5. What are your thoughts on Pietersen saying Aussies should not go to India if they can’t play spin? There has not been any turn in the pitches in India in the past two series (vs England and New Zealand) like Mumbai 2004.

    1. I think the quality of the spinners (Ashwin/Jadeja) vs (Rashid/Moeen) made a huuge difference.

      Aussies tend to play closer to the bat, but they should be bolder & play with more intent(go fully forward or fully backward) instead of trying to play safe & don’t play premeditated strokes (watch the ball & play as late as possible) etc

      1. To give an example, Ravi Shastri / Saleem Malik would step frequently out of the crease (like Moeen), but play many dead bat shots from way outside the crease (unlike Moeen who lashes out, even when he has misjudged the length.)

  6. I can only feel sorry for all the headline writers who can no longer use “Captain Cook” or other variations such as “England Cooked”

    What are they going to do now? England Batting lays down it Roots? England uprooted? No?

    Stokes might have been a better bet.

    1. Agreed, Uday.

      Thank heavens we at least still have Captain Morgan for the shorter stuff, otherwise this really would be a rum do.

      1. Skipper not setting sufficiently funky fields? ‘SQUARE ROOT’

        Suspicions of an opposition mole within the camp? ‘ROOT HIM OUT’

        Captain plays an aesthetically pleasing innings? ‘SCENIC ROOT’

        Throws in the towel after defeat in the 2023 Ashes? ‘BEAT ROOT’

        You’re welcome.

      2. Root 66 would seem appropriate too, given his penchant for passing 50 but not always quite making 100.

      3. ROOT 66 is his ODI shirt number, innit…

        Bludgeons series of powerful boundaries – BROOT FOURS

        Major reforms needed after calamitous winter Ashes series – ROOT AND BRANCH REVIEW (preferably we can get a vice-captain, coach or selector with a tree-related name at some point)

        Caught doing something altogether dastardly and unethical – ROOT OF ALL EVIL

        Plays masterful innings in NZ – KIWI FROOT

        These are bad. I’ll stop, root suite.

      4. I can do worse than that:

        B. Root Fours, perhaps, once brother Billy gets into the team?

        Root ‘kin ‘el, (root canal), if he’s penalised by the authorities for dissent or use of bad language?

        Root branches out, basically for any circumstances whatsoever where there’s some sort of departure from convention?

        G’Root, for when a good performance in Australia coincides with the release of a new Guardians of the Galaxy film?

  7. People are talking about Cook not having the ‘art of captaincy’ but Brearley was not without his critics. ODI captaincy aside, for Cook to muster the reslience to soldier on in the face of often undue criticism is not without significance. As regards the Pieterson debacle, there’s a difference between entertaining the whims of a maverick and mollycoggling a self-regarding whinger. We only have Pieterson’s word on cooking staring at his shoes. As to Bert’s notion of Cook coming from the ‘right family’, you are only lauding BT engineers to the higher eschalons of society. I’m sure they’d be pleased with that. Root got a scholarship, just in different ends of the country. Reiterating a previous comment, I think it would have been good if he could have seen out the Ashes.

  8. Assuming that Root will be the next skipper is to assume that a Straussian process is predictable. Allegedly, Ramps was in line for the job until a certain Nasser made a better pitch. I am going to plump for Woakesy, as that is the most outlandish suggestion I can come up with, apart from Halesy or Moeen.

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