Fans' goodwill remains - Cook
Alastair Cook believes the English public remain largely behind the team despite the events of the winter and its dramatic fallout.
After a somewhat bitty start to the international season with a rain-effected game in Scotland then the T20 defeat to Sri Lanka on Tuesday, which Cook was not involved in, he now gets hold of the team for his first extended run since the one-day series in Australia, which resulted in a 4-1 defeat and, momentarily at least, led to Cook considering his future.
Others did pay with their positions with Andy Flower and Kevin Pietersen the highest-profile casualties. Pietersen's absence continues to be a source of much debate especially on social media, fuelled by Giles Clarke's recent comments that people need to "move on" from the issue and not helped by England struggling to regain winning form.
That Cook has retained his position, seemingly without too many questions asked, has also caused some consternation from his more vocal critics but Cook insists he has not personally felt any animosity from the fans.
"I'm sure if you live your life on social media it would be slightly different but from the people I've bumped into in the street or the pub the goodwill is still there to English cricket," he said. "That's only what I've experienced and it is slightly different when you meet people face-to-face I'm sure.
"People were obviously disappointed with the winter, as any cricket fan would be, and the players were disappointed as well, that's a given. We are incredibly lucky with the support we've got, as we always have whether we've won or lost, and as players were are incredible grateful for the support we get."
But a continued struggle to string wins together this summer against Sri Lanka and India will start to test the patience of even the most loyal supporters.
"No-one's got a divine right to win a game of cricket," Cook said. "Sri Lanka are an incredibly dangerous side so we've got to play some good aggressive cricket. We are going to leave it all out there and we are desperate for a good performance. But that doesn't guarantee anything. The fresh start and stuff is brilliant but it's all now down to playing some good cricket."
In this one-day series there is also a bigger picture to look at with the World Cup now less than nine months away. Cook took on the 50-over captaincy in 2011 following the previous tournament as England began another cycle of trying to overcome their woes in the premier global event, but Cook conceded that they are nowhere near as clear on their line-up as he had hoped they would be.
"I remember in 2011 sitting down when I first started as England captain saying I want this four years to build up and come the World Cup we'll have a settled side leading into it. I'd hoped to have eight or nine months where it would be settled. That was the theory but I probably wasn't living in the world of reality if I'm being honest because a lot can happen in four years as we've seen.
"Of course, it would be ideal if everything was settled and everyone knew their role. But we don't know the 13 or 14 we'll take out there. They'll be the decisions we start making now because of what happened over the last three or four months. We build towards the World Cup from now."
One aspect of the team Cook did seem much more certain of was the continuation of his opening partnership with Ian Bell. There has been much clamour to shake up England's top order, but the continued absence of Alex Hales showed that was not top of the selectors' thoughts and it does not appear as Michael Carberry, who had a poor T20 yesterday, will split the incumbent pairing although he could yet bat at No. 3.
There is logic in retaining the current partnership which is the second-highest scoring first-wicket combination for England: in 33 innings since they came together on a full-time basis in June 2012 they have averaged 42.28 and even in Australia were regularly forming a solid platform which gives Cook the confidence they can work in a variety of conditions.
"If you look back to that Australia one-day series there were five very different wickets we had to play on," Cook said. "So at Perth when it was a belter and we needed a quick start because we knew 300 would be a par score we got off to a really good start. So we have got the power to do that. But there'll be other times in England or say Adelaide when you're playing on a slow wicket and it nips around a bit. You need the guys to adapt their skills to handle those conditions. That's what I'm looking for as a side."
Quite what England will do with the other end of the order was not quite so certain. James Anderson is back to take the new ball which will give the attack an added edge, and greater experience, but the major vulnerability remains at the death. Harry Gurney impressed in the T20 but, two matches into his international career, he will need someone to share the burden. If England continue to haemorrhage runs in the latter stages Cook will find it difficult to secure the wins to ensure the fans remain on side.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo