July 30, 2014

Why we need Cook to succeed

Because there is no one else who can captain this England side

Because, let's face it, we need to see more of that jaw, set firm against adversity © Getty Images

So Alastair Cook has saved his career as England captain by scoring 95 runs - which he will be able to exchange for tactical acumen and man-management skills at the Big English Captaincy Shop, where they also accept American Express, Visa, years spent at public school, and having a relative on the selection committee.

The entire population of England spent their Sunday pacing up and down outside the operating room as Alastair had his failure-ectomy. Every quarter of an hour, regular programming was interrupted by a sombre-looking Jonathan Agnew reporting that we'd nearly lost him but that the vital signs were good, his scoreboard was ticking over and fingers were still crossed. Every hour, newspaper sellers would cry the latest:

"Read all about it! Alastair Cook not out yet!

There were millions of us willing him on, like parents with their first child, whose every move is certain to be greeted with rapturous, encouraging applause:

"Look, he's lining up all the toy cricketers on the boundary, bless him. He's growing up so fast, honestly, you should have heard him giving a press conference after he used the potty last night, it was so sweet. Oh my god, did you see that? I swear he just put an extra slip in! He did! Oh, who's a clever little England captain then… "

There are two reasons for this desire to see Alastair wobble successfully across the bottomless canyon of disaster via the tightrope of cricket fate.

Firstly, it is hard to dislike him. Perhaps he was a complete monster at his school, perhaps he used to leave cockroaches in Kevin Pietersen's sunglasses case, perhaps he spends his time between Tests shooting snow leopards and raising funds to construct a giant magnifying glass above the North Pole to help melt the polar ice cap more quickly, but it doesn't matter. He looks like the intelligent one in a B-list boy band, who has come to realise that all human endeavour is futile. No one wants to see Alastair Cook cry.

We had no worries about Andrew Strauss on that score. He has always been a stalwart second-in-command, stiff-upper-lip, do-your-duty, Captain Oates personality. He's the sort of stout chap you could ask to fly his Spitfire on a suicidal one-way mission to Berlin, knowing that he would be sure to receive the news calmly, salute, fix his cap firmly onto his head, shake you by the hand and march off to attend to business, perhaps with a final burst of eye-popping swearing before his radio cuts out:

"Tally-ho chaps. I've just lost my rudder. We'll show these f**&^% C^&^*(() Germans how we Brits do it, the f&^)_*((( c^%£$^… "

But the main reason why we don't want Alastair Cook to fail is that during the last few weeks while we've been having fun outlining to ten decimal places just exactly how useless he is, every single one of us has experienced that sobering moment, the moment when someone asks, "Well who do you think should be captain then?" It is then that the full enormity of the situation hits you.

Because there is no one else. No one. There are as many viable England captaincy candidates on planet earth as there are successful Middle East peace plans. Ian Bell is too timid, James Anderson is too grumpy and Matt Prior is too dropped. Making Stuart Broad captain would be the equivalent of putting an angry 12-year-old in charge of the school sports day, and giving the job to Eoin Morgan would be like giving it to Chris Cowdrey; worse, in fact, because Eoin's surname doesn't even give an air of spurious reassurance.

By my reckoning, that leaves the Duke of Edinburgh, Spongebob Squarepants and Andy Flower's laptop. But it is unlikely that Spongebob's naturalisation would come through in time, the Duke would be a disaster at press conferences, and Andy Flower's laptop has been a bit laggy of late and experts think it may have picked up a virus.

So the English cricket-watching populace have weighed the current ever so slightly unsuccessful captaincy regime against the possibility of a 1988-style dystopia of despair and bewilderment brought on by selectors removing an incumbent captain without the foggiest idea of who to replace him with, and have decided that, on balance, Alastair is quite clearly the best/only man for the job. All hail Captain Cook!

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here