England news October 11, 2013

Champions Trophy failure casts shadow for Cook


By any standards, Alastair Cook has enjoyed a fine first year as captain of the England Test and ODI teams. In a role which is largely defined by Ashes success, England's 3-0 victory over Australia stands out, though the Test series victory in India might well, in the long-term, be rated as the greater achievement. Either way, to have lost only one Test in 14 and won seven more is a fine record.

Yet it is a reflection of Cook's high standards and expectations that, when asked to reflect on his first year in charge, it is a failure that stands out.

Failing to win the Champions Trophy final still hurts. England, with the game in their grasp, surrendered their chance to win a first global ODI trophy. With 16 balls to go and six wickets in hand, they required only 20 to win. In the end, though, India won by five runs.

It is the first thing Cook mentions when reflecting on his year in charge.

"We should have won that game," Cook sighs. "We should have won that game of cricket chasing 130.

"As a team we are always going to be disappointed by the Champions Trophy final. It took quite a long time to get over it. It was the same for me personally. The game was in our grasp. That was a tough day and I think it took us a long time to get over.

"They were unique circumstances. To have a Champions Trophy and go straight into an Ashes within 10 days was tough. Losing knocked us down a bit more than we thought. We already started the Ashes a little bit jaded."

Cook's comments underline the high-priority England invested in the tournament. While the focus of the media and most spectators was upon the Ashes, England realised that the event presented an opportunity to win a global ODI trophy and reiterated the impression that, after years when Test cricket was the priority for England, showpiece, global limited-overs events are now held in equally high esteem. The 2015 World Cup is the next such target.

"It was certainly a good tournament," Cook said. "To have it in two weeks, with every game having meaning was sensational. Past World Cups haven't felt like that. But we had an opportunity to win the Champions Trophy and the Ashes in a short space of time and we didn't quite take it."

Cook also admitted that his relative struggles with the bat during the Ashes series - he averaged 27.70 - did "not sit easy with him."

"It's frustrating because I feel my game is in good order," he said. "You don't look at any career and see a constant upward curve. That's what being a batsmen is. But it doesn't sit easy with me to say that and accept it to be fine.

"As a captain you want to lead from the front and score runs; that is your primary job. Particularly when you play your first Ashes series as captain.

"But until you've gone through it you don't really know what to expect. It is more intense, it is more heightened.

"I don't think that has affected my batting. It's more of a bone of frustration. I still felt I contributed with three fifties and if you change fifties into hundreds it changes the complexion. I'm looking forward to putting that right."

When pushed, however, Cook did admit that England's success in India was a considerable source of pride. Cook had assumed control of a divided team reeling from the Kevin Pietersen episode and facing one of its long-established fears: spinning wickets in Asia. Yet, despite considerable odds, Cook somehow untied the dressing room and led his side from one-down after the first Test to an admirable victory.

"When you achieve something as special as that, it does reignite the side and squad," Cook said. "That will be the series that, when I stop playing cricket and look back, I will think was special.

"The next time we go to India, too, we will realise what we achieved. If you look where we were at the end of the second or third day of that first Test, I think it was an even greater achievement.

"I can't fault the lads - there is always going to be a bit or turmoil when a new captain comes in that - that is natural. I'd been captain of the ODI side, but when you lose someone like Andrew Strauss with the credit he's got and the respect he's got, there's always going to be time to get used to it. But the lads responded to me and the way we've gone on, we can't fault that. We need to draw on that in the next three months."

Alastair Cook was supporting the Chance to Shine Annual Awards. Chance to Shine is keeping cricket alive in schools and just £15 pays for a year's coaching for one child. Donate at chancetoshine.org

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Martin on October 17, 2013, 3:17 GMT

    @JG2704 hiya mate. You know I get really tired of reading trouble making snyde comments from certain sc posters. I get tired of them lecturing us about mental fragility when the mental fragility of their team is there for all to see. "Mental fragility" and an ultra-conservative approach are two different things and I certainly agree that England are an ultra-conservative team. But mentally fragile they most certainly are not - if they were then we would have lost at Brisbane in 2010, we would have lost at Trent Bridge in 2011, lost the series in India in 2012, lost the 2013 series in New Zealand and lost at Trent Bridge and Chester-le-Street in 2013. Mentally fragile teams lose games and series like those and many more besides. Where England have lost it is because of a ridiculously conservative approach: should have put South Africa in to bat at the Oval in 2012 in rainy conditions. That was unforgivable. Losing badly in UAE. All due to non-aggression, not mental fragility.

  • ESPN on October 15, 2013, 8:18 GMT

    there are no match winners in england except Kp,where as INDIA all the players are match winners,its not about scoring runs (80-100) its about scoring (30-50) runs and winning the match

  • John on October 14, 2013, 20:04 GMT

    please publish this time

    @5wombats on (October 12, 2013, 19:53 GMT) Hello - hope all is well.

    Actually , I hate to say this but I think there is some truth in what was said - more by luck than judgement obviously.

    I think we overrest our players and I think we play alot of games like we're afraid to lose and I think because we are so rigid in the way we go about things so that our strengths can become weaknesses when things start going against us. So I wonder if playing ultra cautiously (even to a degree in ODIs) as opposed to trying to take games by the scruff of the neck is a mental problem

  • Rayner on October 14, 2013, 14:33 GMT

    It's true India were the best team in the champs trophy, no one can deny that, but Cookie is certainly right that we would have jumped at the chance of needing 16 off 20 and it's a game we should have won at the end of the day.

    He's always been a great asset to the team and continues to prove all of his doubters wrong continually.

  • Rob on October 14, 2013, 2:23 GMT

    Unmesh_cric on (October 12, 2013, 20:13 GMT) An honest appraisal of the final, England should have walked it and when Sharma was given the ball I thought it was all over; however whether it was due to the unusually dry pitches or not India were the most impressive team in the tournament without a doubt. If we had won the CT and lost the Ashes I would have been gutted and this is how all of my cricket fans friends think, it is what it is- we prefer tests.

  • Neil on October 13, 2013, 5:35 GMT

    The most impressive thing with Cook is his desire to win. He & Trott in particular had poor series' with the bat in England. Look out for them making amends in Australia. Both captains will have big series with the bat - the key will be who will stand up on either side and score big with them. I feel that is where England have the advantage.

  • Senthil on October 13, 2013, 2:55 GMT

    As always Cook's setting high standards, and it's lovely to see from the England captain. He and his team have had a great year by any measure, and yet, he speaks of his disappointment at the Champions Trophy. Still, he needs to realize that he was up against the best in the business when it comes to the shorter format. Destiny seems to magically accompany MS Dhoni and Company, whenever they express a desire to win, and are willing to take a few chances. The men in blue are not easily stopped as long as Dhoni is out there leading them. That said, the cheeky argument could be that England players need to play in the IPL and improve their limited overs skills!

  • Unmesh on October 12, 2013, 20:13 GMT

    I am an Indian fan, but I think India (read Ishant Sharma) were a bit lucky to win that final. Ishant had already lost confidence at the start of "that" over. How he ended up getting those 2 wickets is a great mystery, probably to him also. After getting hit for the first 2 balls of the over, he bowled a short ball which was hit extremely well (by Ian Bell if I remember correctly), but somehow it perfectly found the short square leg fielder. A couple of feet here & there, and it would have been a four. The second wicket was due to a careless shot by Bopara to a nothing ball. I think England made the mistake of thinking that they have already won the match. But it's never over before it's over in cricket. After managing to lose those 2 wickets, the new batsmen just panicked. Ishant Sharma had managed to almost lose the match for India, but instead he somehow ended up winning it for them!

  • Martin on October 12, 2013, 19:53 GMT

    @gsingh7 as usual what utter tosh you come out with. It is TEST MATCH cricket that is mentally and physically demanding - not knock about gully cricket that any 9 year old can play. In Test match cricket India choke under the pressure, especially away from home; this shows their mental fragility when put under pressure. It can be overcome by winning games in a consistent way and having a proper balance between all formats. Like England, India should give equal preparation to all formats or their Test sides would not prosper and they will find it extremely difficult to win Test match series - especially outside of the subcontinent. In fact this is the reason why India has never won a test match series in either South Africa or Australia. @gsingh7 I just thought that you might like to see your comment re-written so that it actually maps onto reality.

  • j on October 12, 2013, 16:38 GMT

    This is an honest critique of himself. Cook has had a fantastic year as captain, the 3-0 victory over Australia in the Ashes, which was essetentially 4-0 in the end, was the cream on the cake after having cracked open India earlier in the year. Being an opener in England is one of the hardest jobs in cricket, but Cook has led the side with great maturity and leadership. India beaten in India and the Aussies thrashed in England. That's a very decent year indeed.