November 5, 2013

The Ashes 2013-14

Warne's barbs rebound

Shane Warne's comments about Ricky Ponting and Alastair Cook - among other subjects - have predictably stirred up various responses in the media. Among the most measured is that from Nasser Hussain, writing in the Daily Mail, where the former England captain concedes that Cook could be more imaginative but defends his overall leadership style:

So far, though, his record speaks for itself. He has led England in 16 Tests, won nine and lost only one. And he's averaged nearly 55, even accounting for his mediocre series with the bat in the summer. Those are remarkable figures.

Cook led England to their first series win in India for 28 years, showing his team how to bat against their spinners with that second-innings hundred in Ahmedabad, and he beat Australia 3-0.

Captaincy is about a lot more than clever field settings. Cook brought Kevin Pietersen back into the side last year at a difficult time for the team and he got them playing together. That's why they came through a couple of tight passages of play during the Ashes. Man-management is vital, too.

It all adds up to the fact that Cook is a very good captain -- and the exciting thing for England is that he's still learning.

Warne doesn't rate England's current captain and he has had some harsh words to say about Australia's former one, too. He accused Ponting of "jealousy" after criticisms of his successor, Michael Clarke, were aired in his autobiography leading Russell Jackson in the Guardian muse on "Warne's own eagerness to place his ego before the best interests of the current Australian squad". He also suggests that defending Clarke from a perceived slight may not have been his main priority:

Given the innocuous nature of Ponting's comments and the fact that Warne himself has a world-class hide when it comes to dealing with such barbs, could it be that Warne is not even taking offence on behalf of his friend Clarke, but merely using the opportunity to sink the boots in to Ponting? If it is such an act of opportunism it ill-befits an identity of Warne's standing in the game. It also doesn't auger particularly well for his post-career influence on Australian cricket.

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