India in England 2014

Underfire Cook gets unexpected support

Nagraj Gollapudi

June 25, 2014

Comments: 34 | Text size: A | A

Alastair Cook dragged a pull into his stumps, England v Sri Lanka, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley, 4th day, June 23, 2014
Alastair Cook may be in poor form but India coach Duncan Fletcher is not taking him lightly © Getty Images

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

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Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge-Needs-A-Hug 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.

Posted by Bluey74 on (June 28, 2014, 16:24 GMT)

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

Posted by BradmanBestEver 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.

Posted by   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.

Posted by dsirl 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...

Posted by wapuser 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

Posted by nareshgb1 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.

Posted by dunger.bob 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.

Posted by   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!

Posted by   on (June 26, 2014, 14:53 GMT)

Should we really be taking advice from the opposition?

Posted by   on (June 26, 2014, 8:38 GMT)

Any average Test batsmen who is struggling with form can regain form by an Indian series (if the series is played outside India). I bet Cook will be the top scorer for England in the series against India. Unlike last time, at least the matches should be played 5 full days rather than being bowled out twice in 3 days time.Its sad but should say that another white wash is facing India.

Posted by Fast_Track_Bully on (June 26, 2014, 7:24 GMT)

Indian's never interested in war of words unless some one said something to them. They are humble and reply with their performances. Even recent BD tour evidence to that. You can see what happened to the matches when Afridi, Shon Tait etc tried to get upper hand by commenting on Indians. So no need to comment on others untill they provoke you. You are there to play cricket in the field not to bash others. Well done Dhoni and Fletcher.

Posted by   on (June 26, 2014, 6:31 GMT)

Great chance for Cook to get back to form.Indian bowlers were terrible at him when English toured India last time.He's one of the batter who loves Indian bowling like Saeed Anwar,Salman Butt,Charderpaul,etc.,did.Cook is a great guy.Hope he do well and regains the momentum.Indians would rest lot of hope on I Sharma in absence of Zak

Posted by Blade-Runner on (June 26, 2014, 6:04 GMT)

Seriously ?? What are Dhoni and India's "indefinite" coach doing ? This is a full International tour , not a friendly backyard Cricket game. Having been rolled over across all 3 formats by Sri Lanka, Cook n co. are down n low in confidence. So, This is the time to pound on 'em, especially considering India's poor away record during last 3-4 years. But hey..we're having none of that. Let's cheer 'em up n get 'em back on the track. I'm bemused !!!

Posted by natarsx on (June 26, 2014, 5:42 GMT)

I presume this is what will happen - Eng will now think twice before dropping Cook and will be convinced to keep him - India will take this opportunity and get a free wicket in the first few games - in the later games either Eng. will drop him or he will come back to form

Posted by xylo on (June 26, 2014, 4:29 GMT)

Mark Taylor might have been out of form, but he was a great captain. Cook's form might have hit a low, but he has not been a good captain. Sadly, for England, he is still the best choice.

Posted by SANATP22 on (June 26, 2014, 3:40 GMT)

Cook great average against India and Indian blower struggle against left handier top batman.

Posted by   on (June 26, 2014, 3:05 GMT)

India has a Fantastic record of getting opposition batters back in form!! Dont worry Cook will be relishing playing against India.

Posted by   on (June 26, 2014, 2:14 GMT)

This is lame. What is this world cricket or the United Nations?

When you are playing competitive cricket against top sides of the world you need to show some aggression and sense of competition, not brotherly love.

Yes, Cook is a great player and while it is OK to show some sympathy, it is not OK to hug and kiss and sing praises of the opposite captain. This is an opportunity to play some mental games and make it known that India will target to keep Cook's lean run going strong and that there are plenty to learn and apply from the SL dominance of this weakened English side.

Posted by   on (June 26, 2014, 2:02 GMT)

I guess Dhoni was supporting himself because he knows if the Tour is going to be another disaster then people have to reference from these words from Fletcher and Dhoni and give him reprieve.

Posted by Humdingers on (June 26, 2014, 1:34 GMT)

And just like that India have given up somewhat of an ascendancy (mentally anyway) in the series. When will they ever learn about mental dominance? Would Steve Waugh or Ponting ever sympathize with the opposition captain. The captain is who sets the tone for the series - look at Angelo Matthews! Well done Dhoni/Fletcher! Cook to score at least 2 hundreds in the series starting with the first test. Until Dhoni/Fletcher go, India will never win overseas. Make note.

Posted by pvck on (June 26, 2014, 1:03 GMT)

@smokem, that's spot on. Cook leads with his batting and his tactics are poor, which means that once his form goes off (as it has recently, spectacularly) there's nothing to fall back on. If Clarke lost form, he'd still have a long rope because he's a great tactical leader and clever in the field. As Dobell has been saying, Bell would make a much more intriguing leader.

Posted by regofpicton on (June 25, 2014, 23:03 GMT)

What's next? Dhoni to say how much he admires Prior's keeping?

Posted by sandyyy on (June 25, 2014, 22:09 GMT)

Don't worry guys. Cook will find form Vs India. India has history of bringing out of form and hopeless players to form. I am sure he wills score minimum 2 double centuries vs India. Indian team is very kind with out of form players. This might be last series for Dhoni as test captain. Coming from an Indian Fan.

Posted by __PK on (June 25, 2014, 22:09 GMT)

The Mark Taylor analogy is not a good one for Cook. Taylor never made it back into form, apart from a one-off 300 on a flat track in a match that was never going to produce a result. His poor form only ended when he was replaced by Steve Waugh. Then Matt Hayden came onto the scene and the world saw how good the guy Taylor was obstructing actually was.

Posted by   on (June 25, 2014, 21:38 GMT)

Omg...can't believe this. Dhoni doesn't deserve to be the captain of any test team and he is supporting Cook! No test victory overseas for 3 years and no better person to hide behind Cook now!

Posted by   on (June 25, 2014, 19:58 GMT)

Indian coach and captain supporting Cook just before the series starts..... :-) u know ur a bad captain when the opposition does that.

Posted by   on (June 25, 2014, 19:17 GMT)

Yes, Cook needs a bit mental support from his team members and coach as well . The Ashes loss in Australia was inevitable as Australia are the strongest team at home(probably). The main reason for this loss against Sri Lanka is loss of Swann and Trott . This is a rebuilding team and the way they fought in 2nd test Day 5 was incredible.

Posted by Cricketfan11111 on (June 25, 2014, 17:11 GMT)

Cook won the test series in India after a long time. And won the ashes in England. Full credit to him. The last ashes in Australia it was one factor-Johnson- made havoc to English team's plans. Now he has got a new look young team. They need time to gel. Cooks form is worrying him. Sure, he will work hard to get his form back. Players do need support when going through bad patch.

Posted by LAKingsFan on (June 25, 2014, 16:55 GMT)

No comparison with Mark Taylor. Even though MT hardly scored runs, the led the team to victories.

Posted by KricketWicket on (June 25, 2014, 16:47 GMT)

I think MS and Fletcher are hoping for Cook to be reatined as captain and opening bat for the India series. That ensures that at least they have 2 of the 20 wickets in the bag. Good tactics by Team India. Way to go.

Posted by Raj006 on (June 25, 2014, 16:18 GMT)

Strategically it is not a good thing giving support to a wounded player like Cook, but is the right thing to do. I am very happy to see Dhoni and Fletcher support Cook.

Posted by smokem on (June 25, 2014, 16:14 GMT)

Big difference was, Australia was winning with Taylor as captain despite him not scoring many runs. And Taylor is widely regarded as one of the best tacticians.

However Cook is a poor tactician and England is losing games left, right and centre. BIG DIFFERENCE Duncan Fletcher!!!

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