For a good part of this summer in England, Alastair Cook has been on the back foot in press conferences, defending his captaincy style from various detractors. When Sri Lanka came visiting in June, the England captain was up in arms against Shane Warne, who had been calling for his head ever since Australia had won the Ashes Down Under 5-0.
Then, when India managed to shock themselves and the cricket-watching world by taking the series lead at Lord’s, Cook stepped further back in his conference crease (out there on the field, he actually stepped a yard out) and shielded his men from former England captain Michael Vaughan’s written wrath.
With a 3-1 win in the Test series, he proved Vaughan wrong of course. But just when life turned into a bed of roses for Cook, the thorns began pricking in. Earlier this week, Cook’s long-time friend and team-mate Graeme Swann claimed that Cook “shouldn’t be bothering playing one-day cricket”. And that England “don’t have a cat in hell’s chance” of winning the World Cup.
The comments hurt Cook, mainly because there is no way he could prove Swann wrong before the 2015 tournament and also due to the fact that the comment had come from a once ardent supporter. On Thursday, a day after Cook lost the second one-dayer to India, he replied to his ‘so-called friend’ in the press conference. “He (Swann) is entitled to his opinion, but it’s not ideal for me, especially when you get through the summer I’ve had,” Cook said. “I don’t think it’s helpful, especially from a so-called friend.”
Swann had said that Cook’s one-day strike rate of 77.98, coming right up the order, will not help England’s chances in Australia and New Zealand next year. Asked if Cook had confronted Swann about his views, the captain said: “The phone is always open the other way.”
But was he disappointed? “I am a little bit,” Cook confessed. “Because he is a good friend of mine and has been a supporter. It’s not helpful at this time, because I am going to be captain in this World Cup. I’ve done it for three-and-a-half years. We’re going to build up to that, and we’ve got a good chance, although obviously if we play like that (second ODI) we aren’t going to win many games of cricket.”
The Cardiff drubbing also gave Swann another reason to rub it in. “I still think we’re insisting on this old-fashioned way of playing cricket,” he told the BBC. “A very positive thing to come out of the game was that they were taught a lesson by India, who showed the sort of game you have to play. They have power hitters through the batting order and Suresh Raina got a magnificent hundred off 75 balls. That’s the sort of thing they need to emulate.
“There are players in county cricket who do it and hopefully sooner rather than later they will be promoted to the national side. Alex Hales was a breath of fresh air for his 40, crunching boundaries and pulling fours away, but there is not a great deal of silver lining you can put on this dark cloud.”
Cook fined, faces ban
England may have to anyway try out a new captain soon enough as Cook was left facing a one-match ban after being fined for slow overrate in Cardiff. He had to part with 20 per cent of his match fee, but more crucially, if England repeat the offence in the next 12 months, he will have to sit out the following game.