Alastair Cook should stick to the day job

Posted by
2 minute read

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.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


Why risk it when it's so easy to sign up?


  1. The big problem is, who is Alastair’s Geoff Capes? Bell, who’s batting as well as his captain already? Morgan, with his negligible first-class record? BROAD?

    Actually I’d take any of them to have Ali’s runs back on the board, but they’d all be rubbish and come in for as much criticism as him.

    1. What do you not understand? Alastair Cook should stand down and England should make Geoff Capes captain.

      We didn’t think we could make our position any clearer.

    2. By the way, Balladeer, do you win anything for being top overall in All Out Cricket’s fantasy game, or do you only get fabulous prizes for the performance in each Test?

    3. Looking at that list, I’d love to finish third. The Badgers are currently at around 30. It would need great maneuvering, tactical acumen, audacity, and brilliant foresight.

      My biggest worry at this point is I would end up first or second.

    4. The Kingdom is supplying both first and seventh overall. But we can do better.

      Come on, everyone! Accurately predict cricket within the fantasy game’s defined parameters!

    5. My results have been sabotaged by the omission of Ashwin from the Indian team.
      Of course, now that I have substituted him he is a certain inclusion (and man of the match) for the next test.

  2. The captaincy is like the girl at school that everyone wanted to go out with. Cook’s convinced her to go out with him but then very slowly realised he prefers men.

    1. And the popular kids Warney and Vaughny are whispering behind his back about how whipped he is.

  3. Captaincy doesn’t interfere with one’s batting or alter it in any way. One just has to be good at making unsubstantiated assertions. You don’t have a good history with that.

  4. I thought Piers Morgan was the driver of the bandwagon? If he is, we can only hope it veers dangerously out of control at some point.

    Also, has anyone suggested Paul Collingwood as captain yet? If they haven’t, I might.

  5. Cook has a point – he cannot quit midway. That will only serve to disrupt things further. So at the moment, he has no option: he has to stick to the job, possibly suck at it till the end of the series, and then step down. Till then, he will have shit continuously thrown at him and he has to develop the testicular fortitude to ensure it doesn’t stick.

  6. i’m not sure about whether quitting midway through would make things worse or not – though i agree there are no hugely obvious candidates to assume the captaincy at this point. i also remember that hellish series against WI in the late eighties when eng went through four captains, including the previously uncapped – and soon enough found to be unsuitable – chris cowdrey. i seem to recall that finished 0-5..? not a good precedent is it (although that said, the worst we could do at this point is 0-4… )

    his “captaincy” does seem to be going absolutely nowhere, though whether or not this is definitively linked to his batting slump is open to question: the away series in india was his first as full-time skip wasn’t it? batting worked out pretty well that time… just not since, but this is not his first prolonged dry spell either. let’s not forget he was perilously close to being dropped for the ashes a few series back, and only saved himself with a ton against pakistan at the last time of asking.

    it’s amazing isn’t it? how fast did the wheels come off, and how spectacularly..?

  7. He will get his batting form back. The problem is that he is not a good captain.

    The management should act now, use his batting as an excuse to sack him. When was the last time a permanent England captain was sacked just because they weren’t a good captain? Botham?

  8. i thought beefy’s main sin was that he had pissed off the mcc members? no chance of that happening with a “thoroughly good egg” like captain cook

  9. How about Daryl Mitchell? He seems to be having a pretty good season with the bat, and he’s not done too bad captaining a fairly mediocre team.

    I don’t know if his family are of the right sort, however.

    1. I’m with you, his record (1200 runs at 86) at least deserves a mention but he plays for the wrong county and has no media supporters so no chance.

  10. Cook is demonstrating his rightsortness in the finest British tradition. Future generations will compare him to Robert Scott and his expedition to the South Pole, Sir John Franklin and his efforts to locate the Northwest Passage, or Percy Fawcett and his search for the Lost City of Z in the Amazon. None of these splendid men gave up, not when the going got tough, not when things became too much for ordinary men to bear, not even when they and every single member of their teams died.

    No, this is the cloth that Cook is cut from. It is fine cloth, British cloth, probably some sort of tweed I would guess. It’s certainly not Drizabone or any of that modern synthetic stuff that works. Hip hip huzzah!

    1. Nice piece. And I like that website you linked to, better than this one anyway. So much more insightful. I think I might move across.

  11. It was positively embarrassing to see the Cook post match interview on The Verdict, Monday evening.

    Daisy, without mischief or irony, wondered whether Cook is on the verge of a breakdown. Indeed she suggested, based on the balcony shots of the disaster unfolding, that the whole team looked depressed.

    The scary part is the paucity of alternatives. Surely the central system (brought in to fix the systemic problems uncovered in the late 1980s and 1990s) should be producing more cricket leaders than before – but it seems systemically to produce fewer.

    It seems the England bubble cocoons the players and spares them the indignity of learning how to captain first class cricket.

    Eoin Morgan is probably the least bad option of all the alternatives mooted and it is a far from ideal choice, not least because his first class batting record doesn’t justify a place. But then the same could have been said, indeed was said at the time, about Mike Brearley.

    1. Isn’t part of Andy Flower’s new job ‘mentoring future leaders’ or something?

      Suppose six months is a bit of a short turnaround time for that kind of thing.

    2. I’m disagreeing here on the central contract plan.

      To draw a vaguely KC like metaphor… if the central contract scheme is a greenhouse then Duncan Fletcher/Andy Flower/Peter Moores the head gardener. The head gardener and his team of horticulturalists are dab hands at spotting which seedlings will turn into decent examples of the batsman/bowler/wicket keeper plants, especially if they are nurtured in the protected environment of the greenhouse where they can be given precisely the right amount of nutrition and water.

      But the captain plant is a completely different triffid altogether. The best examples of this species are almost always found outside the greenhouse where, subject to the conditions of the natural environment, many wither and die. But a select few adapt to these not always benign conditions and become the strongest and most adaptable plants in the jungle. A giant hogweed compared to the prize begonias of the greenhouse. You can grow heracleum mantegazzianum in a greenhouse, but chances are you’ll end up with a plant that may look the part, but with an unnaturally tall and spindly stem won’t stand up to continual battering from bad weather.

      If I was writing this about Australians, I’d have likened the team to pedigree poaches and the captain to a back street mongrel…

  12. Actually, compare and contrast the Taylor/McCallum thing with the mighty Blackcaps (or “New Zealand” as I prefer to call them), Taylor’s batting form was excellent and disquiet about his captaincy minimal, but the coach just thought Macca might do better. Now it was a trifle ugly for a while there (cough 45 all out cough), and we don’t know Taylor would have gone, but it seems to have turned out OK on the whole.

    The “who the f*** else” dilemma notwithstanding, would Moores or anyone have the balls to do the same?

    1. No chance. Absolutely no chance. Moores is simply a continuation of the conservative, careful, sensible mindset of Flower before him.

    2. @Stos… Hesson didn’t wait for it to go completely down the Po before he made a move. Granted, NZs general and historic mediocrity affords a little more leeway but from afar I can’t see where a decisive or definative decision will come from.

    3. It was, however, unfortunate to have Taylor in vain all to produce a team which would lose a series to a typical 21st Century West Indies side.

    4. Different Coach.

      Of course, one might want to consider the impact of 2 opening bowlers (and arguably the 3rd seamer) and batsmen 3-7 all fulfilling themselves at once (more or less) on a team’s performances – and the English equal and opposite before one screams “Huzzah/Boo what a great/shit captain we have”.

Comments are closed.