India in England 2014 June 25, 2014

Underfire Cook gets unexpected support


Alastair Cook is bound to feel embattled and wounded after England's first home series defeat to Sri Lanka. That such a defeat comes two weeks before England take on India in a five-Test series has left Cook's critics wondering whether MS Dhoni and his men now have an opportunity to hurt England badly by taking advantage of a frail captain in floundering form.

Cook, however, has found strong support in the rival Indian camp with the pair of Duncan Fletcher and Dhoni sympathising with him. Fletcher, who was Cook's first England coach, felt it was pointless to single out Cook for bad form and drew a parallel to former Australian captain Mark Taylor, who had had gone without a fifty for 21 innings in the mid-90s.

"For however long he's (Cook) struggled, give me one player who hasn't been through that period for that length of time," Fletcher said on Wednesday at Grace Road, on the eve of the Indians' first warm-up match, a three-day game against second-division Leicestershire. "I remember Mark Taylor. How long did he not get a run for? Australia kept him on as captain. He went through a big period where he didn't get any - and they kept him. It's as simple as that."

Fletcher even recollected what had convinced him to fly Cook across from the Caribbean to India for his debut Test in 2006 after Marcus Trescothick had decided to return to England. Cook, then 21, was touring in the Caribbean with England A, flew into Nagpur to make a fairytale debut as he finished with a second-innings century.

"There were two things that struck me. Firstly, I thought he was a very intelligent cricketer who understood the game," Fletcher said. "I remember talking in one of the very first team meetings he came to, he'd just been flown across from the West Indies, and for a young player we asked about someone and he quite confidently stood up and said 'this player does this and this player does that'. There are very few players who are prepared to commit to something like that at such an early stage in the England squad."

Fletcher also pointed out that when it came to temperament and mental fortitude, there were not many as strong as Cook. "The next thing was that I think he's a very determined individual. He's very, very determined which I think most opening bats have to be. In fact if you have a look at batters and pick them on their mental aspect one of them would be that they have to be determined and stubborn. And I think Alastair's got that.

"He's proved with the runs that he's got that's he's a very, very good opening batter. I agree with MS that too many people are quite happy to knock you off your pedestal and when you go through those bad times times, keep knocking them. That's when you need their support."

Cook is under pressure after making low scores in the two Tests against Sri Lanka and failing to score a century in 24 Test innings. Fletcher said he was "never that confident" as to when a player could break the drought. "But you've just got to look at other people who have managed to get through those periods. Alastair might do that. It might take him a little bit longer - who knows? But at some stage, you'll get through it - and people will be back praising you again."

Dhoni, who has his own critics to answer as India's hunt for an overseas victory now stretches to three years and 14 Tests, said it was important to back the player while he went through a lean spell. "A bad phase is something that everybody goes through. You just need to back players at the right point," Dhoni said. "When you're getting those big hundreds and double hundreds everybody will be on your side. The real test of character is when your fans or when the media and team-mates are supporting you when you're not doing well."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Cam on June 30, 2014, 8:58 GMT

    @Bluey74, took the words out of my mouth, there's no comparison to Taylor, Cook will never be a great captain like Taylor.

  • Glen on June 28, 2014, 16:24 GMT

    Mark Taylor was kept on because he was a brilliant captain and the team was still winning.

  • Peter on June 28, 2014, 12:46 GMT

    You know you are in trouble when supposed 'experts' come out and support you...

    "I remember Mark Taylor. How long did he not get a run for? Australia kept him on as captain. He went through a big period where he didn't get any - and they kept him. It's as simple as that"

    Er, no it is not as simple a that. Why not? because the Aussie team at the time of Taylor's bad form were flogging everyone from pillar to post and thus were able to 'carry' Taylor's bad form for a decent period of time.

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2014, 2:38 GMT

    "Fletcher and Dhoni support Cook" - oooh big surprise there. I'd want Cook captaining England if I were playing them next as well.

  • Cricinfouser on June 27, 2014, 10:38 GMT

    Ha! If I were the Indian captain or coach I too would want my next opposition to have a tactically naive captain who's not scoring a run...

  • Dummy on June 27, 2014, 10:23 GMT

    Really, I dont know how come fletcher compared mark taylor with cook. Even mark taylor didnt scored runs they won the games. Captaincy doesnt mean just he scoring runs. He should know how to haddle the opposition and win the chances cook needs even hecould do anything against sri lanka Iin their own country. If you think cook needs more time why they sacked kevin peterson. Something wrong in whole management in England cricket

  • naresh on June 27, 2014, 8:11 GMT

    LOL - what a "nice" an dinteresting way to deal with "nice" guy Cook :) lets see where this goes. Indians are well known for bringing opposition batsman roaring back to top form.

  • rob on June 27, 2014, 7:14 GMT

    As lots of others have said one way or another, the very best thing Cook can do to help himself is somehow start scoring runs again. On another thread someone talked about a flaw in his footwork that he spotted. (Trigger movement actually). In a recent interview Cook himself said there were some technical things he was working on. .. Maybe he's on top of it and will come out firing against the Indians. I'm not even English, but for his sake I hope so.

    As for the English team being jaded, all I can say is harden the hell up. Nobody ever said it was easy being a Test cricketer. You've got to have consummate skill allied with vast amounts of patience, concentration and stamina. .. It's a tough gig boys, but don't tell me the rewards aren't worth it. Fame and fortune awaits those with the right stuff.

  • Dummy4 on June 27, 2014, 0:41 GMT

    A Cook who can't stand the heat in the kitchen and gets irritated hearing fire Warne alarms usually gets replaced. But the England selectors will retain him, on the basis of the past record of an English Cook enjoying the spicy Indian curry, even while touring India.India is one place, where many a past English batsmen had suffered from Delhi belly; but not Cook. I hope, everyone need to be prepared for some surprises. Hopefully!

  • Dummy4 on June 26, 2014, 14:53 GMT

    Should we really be taking advice from the opposition?