Captaincy is an odd thing. It always strikes us that becoming captain is like being a writer promoted to a management position.
We’ve had jobs where a senior colleague with a stupid job title has come up to us and basically said: “Your writing and editing is so good that we don’t want you to do that any more. We want you to look at spreadsheets instead and do maths.”
We don’t really do maths.
It seems a similar story with Alastair Cook. The ‘Cook out!’ bandwagon is rolling along a little too rapidly for our taste and we don’t particularly want to urge the driver to accelerate further (What’s that? There’s no driver?). But at the same time, what captainly qualities has he ever actually displayed? None really, beyond being a bit older than most of the team and having some sort of inclination to do the job.
A week or so ago, Cook was talking about how stubborn he was and how determined he was to see things through.
“I’ve never quit on anything.”
That seems to us to be half the problem. Sometimes you’re supposed to give up.
The problem is that Alastair Cook is a professional sportsman. He’s spent his whole life being told that determination and a will to succeed are desirable qualities – and of course they are – but they can also lead to exploration of the farthest reaches of pig-headed futility.
Imagine it’s the 1980s and you’ve got a telephone directory in your hand and you really, really need to tear it in half for some unspecified reason. As you grunt and gurn, Geoff Capes walks up behind you and asks if he can help you out. “No, it’s fine Geoff – I’ve got this,” you reply.
But you haven’t.
Alastair Cook used to be a cracking batsman and now he’s a shit one. The cracking-to-shit shift roughly coincides with his tenure as England captain.
What we’re saying is that sometimes it makes more sense to hand the telephone directory to Geoff Capes so that he can tear it in half, leaving you free to find a more productive use for your time.
Update: We’ve just remembered that this article was supposed to be about how Alastair Cook shouldn’t have taken the job in the first place; how he probably only did so because he’d been conditioned to believe it was something he should want and should aspire to.
We always suspect that there are quite a lot of people who become doctors or lawyers without ever really considering whether the job might suit them or not. They just follow a path without giving a great deal of thought to where it leads.