India in England 2014 July 22, 2014

England need Cook the batsman - Waugh

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Steve Waugh, the former Australia captain, has said Alastair Cook knows "deep down" that captaincy is affecting his cricket and stressed that the side needed Cook more as a batsman.

Waugh, who has the most successful record as Test captain in terms of win-loss percentage, told ESPNcricinfo that a break from leadership duties would not do Cook much good and he would have to instead sit with selectors and plan the road ahead.

"If you have to take a break from captaincy, you don't come back, so it's a do-or-die situation," he said. "I think deep down he knows himself it's affecting his cricket. I am sure he will [now] sit down with the selectors and work out some sort of plan. Is it affecting your captaincy? Do you want a break from captaincy? Do you need a break from batting? He hasn't scored a lot of runs of late. I personally think England need him as a batsman. The captaincy, they have got to work out if he is the best man for the job."

Waugh spoke to ESPNcricinfo on the sidelines of a charity event organised by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and Magic Bus on the outskirts of Mumbai.

England's 95-run defeat to India at Lord's extended their winless streak in Tests to 10 games. Since England's last Test win, against Australia at Chester-le-Street, Cook's form with the bat has dipped alarmingly - in 19 innings over the last 11 months, he has scored 420 runs at 22.10.

According to Waugh, a captain's performance as an individual and a leader were closely linked and good form made the task of leading a team much easier.

"When you are scoring runs, it makes the job a lot easier. My only advice to Ricky Ponting when I passed over the captaincy was 'Make sure your game is in good shape, then it's a lot easier to captain your team'," Waugh said. "When you are captaining your country and you are scoring runs, you go in with a free mind. When you are not scoring runs, you worry about bowling changes, then worry about where I am going to score next runs. It does go hand-in-hand. Good captaincy normally goes along with people scoring runs."

Besides his triumphant World Cup campaign in 1999, Waugh led Australia to wins in 41 of the 57 Tests he captained. Achieving a high success rate in the current scenario is difficult for captains, but Waugh felt the outcome of the ongoing series in England could decide the fates of MS Dhoni and Cook as leaders.

"I think Dhoni has had some really good results in the last couple of years. He seems to have the magic touch especially when it comes to winning big games and he knows what to do," Waugh said. "But right now, both Dhoni and Cook are under pressure to get a win in England. Whoever wins this series will be known as a fantastic captain and whoever loses the series, his captaincy will be under a lot of pressure."

Waugh stated that Michael Clarke, the current Australia captain, was the best leader in contemporary cricket: "Right now, Michael Clarke has done a fantastic job in taking Australia from No. 5 to No. 1, so he is probably the best captain in the world at the moment."

Waugh was also impressed with Hashim Amla, South Africa's new Test captain, who led the side to a win over Sri Lanka in Galle last week. Waugh lauded Amla's discipline and said he could be suited to establish himself in the role vacated by Graeme Smith earlier this year.

"They obviously rate him very highly. De Villiers looked like the obvious choice and then Amla came in and got the job," Waugh said. "He started off as a batsman who you weren't sure whether he is going to be good enough to become the world's best batsman, so he knows how to be a disciplinarian. He works things around, has some plans.

"He seems nice, relaxed, calm out there. Having a victory in Sri Lanka is a great start to his Test [captaincy] career. So he may well be a man who is totally suited for the job."

Waugh spent a considerable amount of time interacting with children at the Magic Bus Learning and Development Centre, in Raigad near Mumbai, besides inaugurating a pavilion funded by Laureus. Empowering children has been one of Waugh's priorities since his retirement in 2004 and all his charity work, including that of the Steve Waugh Foundation, revolves around the issue.

"I love to see kids get opportunities to make the best of what they have got. The activities that Magic Bus runs here in conjunction with Laureus is fantastic. My own charity in Australia to keep kids free of diseases and of course, I am involved with Udayan in Kolkata. At the end of the day, it's about giving kids opportunities that sometimes we in Australia take for granted because we have such a great lifestyle," he said.

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo