India in England 2014

England need Cook the batsman - Waugh

Amol Karhadkar

July 22, 2014

Comments: 18 | Text size: A | A

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."

Steve Waugh with children at the Magic Bus Learning and Development Centre, Raigad, July 21, 2014
Steve Waugh with children at the Magic Bus Learning and Development Centre © Laureus Sport for Good Foundation

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

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by bjcm12 on (July 27, 2014, 1:06 GMT)

Waugh was a great captain no doubt about it ! Brearley was an accidental hero.

Posted by number-09 on (July 26, 2014, 11:37 GMT)

Waugh made a valid point about scoring runs and captaincy. When G Smith defensive tactics on the field coincided with run of poor scores. So Cook falls into that category, poor scores more defensive tactics. Plus cook has always been more inclined to be defensive. England may have to do an SA, and appoint Joe root.

Posted by   on (July 23, 2014, 9:32 GMT)

I agree with what muzika said earlier. Steve Waugh was lucky to have enough match winning players in his team to have such win-loss percentage record in test matches. In my opinion, Graeme smith was the best captain in both test and ODI's (except for his last few test matches in his career where he was more defensive). In my opinion next best was sourav ganguly. Ganguly has been India's best test captain ever, though Dhoni is the best ODI captain india has had.

Posted by lillee4PM on (July 23, 2014, 9:30 GMT)

To be a good captain you must be good stratetician AND a good leader of men...Cook is niether. He is a fine batsman but Steve Waugh (a great captain) is right, the England captaincy has destroyed Cook's game and the team is suffering for it. But hey, what do I care, I'm an Aussie. I'll be happy if the ECB leave things as they are and we'll smash England again in the next Ashes series!

Posted by Jimmyvida on (July 22, 2014, 23:56 GMT)

Cook is a great batsman. He is down on luck but has outscored India's best thus far.

Posted by   on (July 22, 2014, 18:07 GMT)

If England wants their best opening bat of the history again then they have to remove the leadership from captain Cook. he is not an astute leader and unable to get last few wickets in every match and ha can't make decisions at the correct time.

Posted by   on (July 22, 2014, 16:28 GMT)

Solution is simple,it seems. Get the monkey of his back! Captaincy is an energizer for many (like Mathews of Srilanka), but not for all.

Posted by muzika_tchaikovskogo on (July 22, 2014, 13:10 GMT)

@Umesh Sarang: Frankly, I think Steve Waugh was at best an average captain. He was incredibly fortunate to inherit a team of 11 match winners. I bet even Alastair Cook would have ground most opposition sides into the dust with the side that Waugh led.

Posted by CricketChat on (July 22, 2014, 11:51 GMT)

Cook needs to cling on to captaincy as his place in the side as a batsman can't be justified otherwise. Eng can learn from Ind who culled the non-performing stalwarts couple of years ago (Shewag, Gambhir, Laxman, Harbhajan, Zaheer, Umesh Yadav among others). Make Ian Bell captain and give one more test to Cook to justify his selection as a bastman only. Time to make bold changes now.

Posted by espncricinfomobile on (July 22, 2014, 11:08 GMT)

Steve Waugh two World Cup wins one as a skipper his outstanding away win records and charitable work within India speaks volumes as a leader with human qualities above other players. Hats off!! No Australian did this ever to India. His success rate was next to CH Lloyd of Windies so he knows what's happening to Cook.

Posted by RogerC on (July 22, 2014, 10:27 GMT)

Greatest captain of modern Era is Mike Brearley, check out his batting records. Ray Illingworth, Pataudi, Jeremy Coney, Darren Sammy are some other good captains without great individual performances. I think Waugh's logic is aimed to bring Cook down and disorient England before next Ashes.

Posted by Beertjie on (July 22, 2014, 10:10 GMT)

Tugga is spot on. Joe Root may be the successor, by all accounts. Papering over the cracks/buying time for Root to gain more experience before appointing him might be the way to go. If so, Cook could stay on and depart at the end of the series. Alternatively, the ECB officially could declare themselves clueless and disband in their entirety prior to a thorough clean-up.

Posted by xtrafalgarx on (July 22, 2014, 9:32 GMT)

@Jackiethepen: Ricky Ponting 'wasn't a natural captain'? There is a difference between being a good captain and a good tactician. Yes, Clarke is the better tactician but he doesn't and never will have the respect and authority than Ponting had, even with his teammates. Of all the biographies i have read (and i have read a few), Ricky was absolutely fantastic as captain. How he took charge at no.3 and the way he played, how he was able to score runs almost everytime he batted filled the team with confidence, so much so that when he got hit in the face by the Harmison bouncer in 2005, Gilly said that sent a shock wavethrough the team.

No doubt in my mind Ricky was an exceptional leader.

Posted by cricmatters on (July 22, 2014, 9:29 GMT)

As the Australian Prime Minister John Howard once said, leading the cricket team is the second most important job next to leading the nation. Unlike soccer and other games where role of captain is limited to turning up for the coin toss and the post match photo session, in Cricket the captain's role is hands on and very proactive. Cricket captain has to assess the situation all the time and be decisive and proactive. Good Captains know instinctively what the players are going through and how to get the most out of them. Unlike other skills in cricket, captaincy can't be taught and one has to have a natural flair for leading men and have the iron will to win at all costs.

Posted by   on (July 22, 2014, 8:24 GMT)

Currently England can't afford to change their Captain since there is no one available in the Team to lead from the Front. So, they could continue with Cook for some time and the Management should assure their support on his captaincy. Due to his batting failure at the top is affecting the team at the moment. Cook and Bell should perform at the top then they could ask the youngsters to carry on from there. They need another opener to support Cook who is not flamboyant and should keep his wicket in tact. They also need a quality spinner in the team instead of having four fast bowlers. They could rest Stokes and bring a spinner in his place. Other than that, the team could be the same for the next three tests and I am confident that England will bounce back easily. Indians are good in playing spinners but at the same time weak in playing spinners.

Posted by vswami on (July 22, 2014, 7:47 GMT)

Think its also easy to captain a team when you have Steyn and Morkel to lead your attack which can get 20 wickets on any surface.

Posted by DaisonGarvasis on (July 22, 2014, 6:36 GMT)

Sure England need Cook the batsman. Cook the batsman who score runs!!! There is a slight problem here though, if he is not Captain, he doesnt get selected in the playing 11. The only reason Cook is in the 11 is that he is the Captain. What Irony though - he is not known for his Captaincy, he is known for his batting only. But right now he is in the Team for his Captaincy. That sums up the story of England. They have made a few wrong decisions. The question is do they have the courage to accept the mistakes, apologise for them and correct them. Its a HUGE question.

Posted by jackiethepen on (July 22, 2014, 6:31 GMT)

Nasser Hussain remained an excellent captain even when he wasn't scoring runs. I don't think a comparison with Ricky Ponting - who wasn't a natural captain - is helpful. Clarke is clearly a natural captain and the same applies to him. He went out of form during the Ashes tour but his captaincy remained superb.

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