England captain Alastair Cook has said he is willing to alter his leadership style if it helps get the best out of a new look side during the Ashes.
Cook has repeatedly been criticised for being an excessively cautious skipper since taking on the post of England captain three years ago.
That ‘grinding’ approach saw England win the Ashes 3-0 on home soil in 2013 but was powerless to prevent Australia whitewashing Cook’s men ‘Down Under’ in 2013/14.
Trevor Bayliss, England’s new Australian coach, has told the side they must “fight fire with fire” if they are to regain the Ashes.
Yet there is an acknowledgement too from all involved with England that recklessness is not the same thing as aggression.
There were signs of greater boldness during England’s recent drawn Test series with New Zealand, although this was more to do with the performances of individual players rather than a huge tactical shift on Cook’s part.
But while Cook is unlikely to abandon the approach to batting that has made him England’s all-time leading Test run-scorer, he is happy to be less defensive tactically if it helps get the best out of the likes of relative newcomers such as all-rounder Ben Stokes and fast bowler Mark Wood.
“At certain times I have to be able to get on that front foot as well as a captain … with this set of players,” said Cook on the eve of the first Test against Australia in Cardiff starting on Wednesday.
“If you looked a little bit further back to when I first started, it was a really methodical team — people who liked banging out areas time and time again, batters who were relentlessly grinding down the opposition, and that’s what we got a lot of success from.
“The guys coming in now are a little bit more free-spirited.
“They might go at a slightly higher economy rate, but the chances of bowling ‘jaffas’ (unplayable deliveries) are higher up there.
“I think it’s the same with our batting … it’s (me) being able to let them do that and make them feel comfortable.”
Cook added: “The side has changed … a natural evolution of players, and there’s certainly a different way we’ve gone about things.
“As a leader of a group, you do have to change your style of leadership to (suit) the players you’ve got and what gets the best out of them.”
Australia, however, have not won an Ashes series in Britain for 14 years and Cook said: “It’s a huge challenge for us to play against the best side in the world, but in our home conditions.
“As players, you want to test yourselves against the best … and see how good you are.”