Is Alastair Cook a plodder? How long does it take to diagnose ploditis?

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Alastair Cook and all that them battings and that and them and that

Alastair Cook says that he’s doing everything he possibly can to try and turn his form around. This begs a rather obvious question. If you’re practising really, really hard and doing everything you possibly can to prepare, but you’re still not scoring runs – what does that actually say about your ability?

At least if you’re dossing about in practice and turning up for matches half-cut, there’s an obvious way to improve your returns. If you’re preparing assiduously and you’re still crap, it might be that you’re simply not cut out for the job.

A bit of a plodder

Mike Atherton’s doing a good job of not saying ‘I told you so’. That’s possibly because he’s a mature, level-headed individual who has inexplicably found himself in the world of English cricket. Back when Cook was made one-day captain, Athers called him a plodder. A fair assessment, you’d have thought, but when Cook then made a bunch of runs in impressive fashion that summer, there were a few digs.

Verbal battles and wars. Fast forward three years and Cook has spent a hell of a lot of the intervening period being a plodder. Athers was fundamentally right and the case for making Cook one-day captain appears to have been exposed as a poor one. Most of the fans’ anger revolves around what is (and isn’t) happening now, but the real mistake came long ago. It’s strange to say this about such a conservative organisation, but picking Cook as one-day captain was a gamble.

What happened to Cook’s batting?

Is Cook out of form or is this actually the norm? Maybe it’s the latter.

To provide some context, after six months or so as captain, we concluded that Cook was quite possibly England’s best one-day batsman. Crucially, we qualified that with an ‘at the minute’.

In the summer of 2011, he averaged 58 in 10 matches, scoring at a run a ball. The following winter, he averaged 50 in nine matches and while he scored a little bit slower, he made a couple of hundreds and three fifties. Worth his place in the side? Absolutely.

Seems a long time ago, doesn’t it? It was. In his last 20-odd matches, he’s made one fifty.

Maybe he got found out. When Cook took over as captain and made all those runs, he still did it in a rather limited way. His new ‘expansive’ game seemed to hinge almost entirely on the slog-sweep to cow corner.

At the time, we described his use of the shot as being like when a bad husband repeatedly brings flowers. It seemed little more than an apologetic gesture designed to distract from major shortcomings. It was odd that it worked, but even the most flower-loving wife will see through such a shallow ruse eventually.

The menu

Unsurprisingly, opponents have taken the slog-sweep off the menu. They’re serving up off-spin in the first over instead. Cook doesn’t appear to like the taste.

Cook has a place in Test cricket’s All-You-Can-Eat Hall of Fame, but he’s picky. He doesn’t like mushrooms ‘because they’re slimy’ and he won’t eat anything with bones in it. You need to have broader tastes in one-day cricket. You need to eat everything because there’s only a finite amount on offer.

Test cricket involves endless courses, so you can pick at dishes you don’t like and gorge on those you do. One-day cricket is more of a taster menu. Miss out on anything and you risk going hungry. In the last year, Cook has basically starved.


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  1. Excellent analysis, KC. Good use of food metaphors too.

    A friend of mine is insistent that Cooky has been found out in Tests as well, and that Hales should open. But if you’re “found out” in Tests, you can still keep your place by hanging on doggedly and punish the bad balls when they inevitably come.

    I remember a time in the test series vs. India when one side of the field was entirely clogged up with fielders, leaving the other free. The TMS commentators said, “If Cook has a reverse sweep, now would be the time to bring it out.” That he didn’t says a lot about his suitability for the ODI opening role.

  2. Not just “good use of food metaphors”, a veritable smörgåsbord of them.

    A very well-cooked piece, KC.

    1. Indeed, we all need to pick over the bones of this story.

      Some will be chilled to the marrow by the news.

      Others, like myself, will digest it more easily and without much surprise. The Peter Moores equivocal answer seemed to me a far stronger hint of the likely outcome than the Paul Downton lobbying speech.

    2. I thought that the Peter Moores response was just an attempt at being seen as looking into the issues, prior to saying, “We’ve had a look at the situation (as a unit), and decided that Cooky should stay on after all. Top bloke, right sort of family, etc.”

      Looks like I was wrong. KC, a plea for you to call your next piece “The ECB actually bloody does something for once,” please.

    3. This wasn’t really an example of the ECB doing much, which they are capable of without always being popular, more just Cook acquiescing to it and as a response this taking place. Eoin Morgan is in for the job, so I’m not sure if there are plans at work here. This does imply that Cook has been working at batting aggressively and such, and shouldn’t have bothered.

  3. Now the WC is going to be 49 straight wash-outs. The final will be split between the 8 top test teams. Zimbabwe and Bangladesh will be given runners-up medals and the associates will be told to keep their filthy hands away from the trophy on pain of not being invited to watch the next tournament.

  4. But what sort of family does Morgan come from? How can we be expected to support a team that might be led by a man whose family background we are unsure of?

  5. I was going thru your old piece on ideal position for Cook being no.4 but now with Root’s success in that position it definitely rules Cook out of the squad isn’t it.

    Also the gamble ECB took in making Cook ODI captain seems to be the same one which CA did in making Clarke the ODI captain. Good for him that he came in at no.4 after the top3 bad ass bats had had a go and followed by buffer of assorted all-rounders and finishers. All Clarke had to do was keep scoring the singles and shore up the batting in the rare event of top-order collapse. Unlike Cook who simultaneously had to score at a high strike rate and bat thru 50 overs. Only Gambhir ever managed to do that.

  6. I would like to know when was the last time a full-time (not interim) England captain was actually sacked. Stewart after World Cup 1999? Or back to Botham’s Ashes?

  7. In unrelated news, apart from being “due”, Michael Slater said the following about Shane Watson as he came out to bat: “word from the dressing room is that he is really due for a huge score, he is looking great in the nets”. I guess after a duck he is now really really really due.

    1. This is very true, and somewhat worrying for Cook. Because he’s been dropped from the ODI team, he can no longer release all those due runs. So they’ll just continue to build up. I’m concerned he might explode – there are a huge number of runs to be released. Just imagine if that happened in a crowded place. The collateral damage doesn’t bear thinking about – casualty figures would be high. I hope the ECB is managing this situation properly.

    1. Damn – that was in reply to KC saying “Test”, but that post has now gone, and I look like a bit of an idiot.

    2. Ghostly comments saying ‘test’ that are there one minute and gone the next are likely to be a regular feature of this site while we argue with the hosting company.

      We’ve been arguing for a fortnight now, so get used to it.

  8. Oh no we won’t!

    (I’m at the pantomime at the moment, so it seemed appropriate. Better than actually joining in at least.)

    1. It’s got Stu Francis in it. I’m so amazed, I could do a large variety of somewhat less than impressive things.

    2. Quick update – Cinderella has gone to the ball, but she has to leave before midnight or all sorts of bad stuff will happen. It’s so exciting, I could jump off a dolls house.

    3. Tremendous finish. In the end, she married Prince Charming. In my opinion he was a bit useless, but he was from the right sort of family, no doubt about it. And that’s what counts.

    4. An ECB-sponsored pantomime, perchance? With Alastair Cook playing Cinderella, who finally becomes beautiful by scoring back-to-back hundreds at a strike rate of 120 in the World Cup. (Since it needed to be written in advance of the Christmas season, the plot is obviously somewhat out of date.)

      Co-starring James Taylor as the pantomime horse. Join in the shouting as the ECB selectors scratch their heads, looking for a competent one-day batsman to shore up the middle order. “He’s behind/below you!”

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