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England need revitalised Cook

Struggling under the weight of England demands, Alastair Cook has considered given up the one-day captaincy - but he remains the right man for the job

George Dobell

January 20, 2014

Comments: 44 | Text size: A | A

Alastair Cook roars after catching Brad Haddin, Australia v England, 2nd ODI, Gabba, January 17, 2014
A break from cricket may help Alastair Cook rediscover his fire © Getty Images

They say that mountaineers, having been caught in an avalanche, are sometimes so disorientated that they dig down rather than up in a bid to free themselves.

So it seems with Alastair Cook in the aftermath of another defeat in Australia. Struggling for equilibrium after another series had been snatched away from him by the avalanche that is Australian cricket at present, Cook admitted for the first time that he was considering his position as captain. Six months after leading England to the brink of their first global ODI trophy and 12 months before a World Cup that England have been planning towards for years, Cook must decide whether to stick or twist.

Much of this could have been avoided. Had the England management been just a little more flexible and a little more sensitive, Cook would have been sent home with other senior members of the squad at the end of the Test series. While his voice said all the right words about "challenge" and "excitement" ahead of the ODI series, his eyes said something quite different. He was obviously drained.

But instead of being given a rest, he was asked to lead a side lacking five of the players - James Anderson, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Steven Finn and Graeme Swann - who had helped it to No. 1 in the ODI rankings, against a resurgent Australia. It was an impossible task. This was an accident waiting to happen.

Some respite may be at hand. Cook will not tour the Caribbean in February and March and will not feature in the World Twenty20 squad. But it would be wrong to think he is about to put his feet up. Not only will he be scheduled to have meetings with the likes of Andy Flower and Paul Downton, but he is also due to become a father in March. That is a wonderful event that will enrich his life beyond measure. But parenting is anything but restful.

Leaders among the pack

  • Eoin Morgan
  • Possibly the most likely alternative. Morgan has already captained England in six ODIs - three wins and two defeats - in which he recorded his highest ODI score. A guaranteed selection and reflective of the more dynamic sort of cricketer many feel England should embrace, Morgan should also remain fresh, with little likelihood of returning to the Test team.
  • Ian Bell
  • Bell has excelled as an innovative captain at domestic level, though whether he would feel the same freedom at international level remains to be seen. He was interviewed for leadership roles at the time the captaincy was split three ways and was the only man not to be given an official leadership role as either captain or vice-captain of a team.
  • Kevin Pietersen
  • Pietersen would be a hugely controversial choice and might feel, at this stage of his career, that he could do without the burden. But he remains close to Ashley Giles, the limited-overs coach, and has the bonus of both experience and, on merit at least, a secure place in the side. England lost all five of his final ODIs in charge, in India in 2008, however, and it seems hard to imagine that he could be offered the role with Andy Flower in his current role.
  • Stuart Broad
  • Andy Flower dismissed the idea of a bowler leading the Test side recently but Broad, as T20 captain, must be among the candidates for the 50-over format. While Broad still has little experience, he has shown himself to be an astute reader of the game and is guaranteed his place in the side.
  • Paul Collingwood
  • Remains the only man to have led England to a global limited-overs Trophy - the World T20 in 2010 - and underlined his leadership credentials by turning a struggling Durham side into county champions in little more than 12 months. His powers as a player have waned considerably, though, and it is hard to see how he could be squeezed into a side. But the same might have been said of Mike Brearley in 1981.

Besides, in Cook's absence, other players will be given a chance to fight for his ODI place. The ODIs against West Indies, ridiculously scheduled as they are right before a World T20, will be utilised mainly to give the T20 squad a chance to find form. So the likes of Michael Lumb and Alex Hales will have the chance to show what they can do in the longer format. Bearing in mind Cook's wretched form in Australia, he could do without such a challenge.

Cook's decline may come to be seen as the latest example of burnout undermining the team's performance. And perhaps, in time, there will be little cross-over between Test and limited-overs players. The demands may simply be too great. For if Trott's breakdown represented the final stop on a journey of mental exhaustion, there are several other members of the squad a long way further down the road than should be the case. It is telling that, upon his return from Australia, one of the Test squad was met by the question from their young child: "Is daddy staying the night?" It is hard to avoid the conclusion that too much has been asked of too few for too long.

The administrators have much to explain. While they have been busy plotting the meritless carve-up of world cricket, they have allowed their most precious assets to be exploited to breaking point in the short-sighted search for a few dollars more. And yet, they take little responsibility for the debacle. Both Flower and Cook have said they will consider their positions in their own time: it seems remarkable that, for the plethora of highly paid managers filling offices at Lord's, players and coaches are still left to decide their own futures.

The shame of all this is that England were on the right track before this tour. While their ODI tactics continue to infuriate those who would like to conjure a Sehwag or Jayasuriya from the shires, all the signs were that they were building a team that could challenge at a World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Their method, conservative though it may seem, saw them rated No. 1 as recently as August 2012 and took them to the brink of the Champions Trophy in June 2013. Had Pietersen or even Swann been available for the final, perhaps England might have gone the extra step.

England's ODI tactics do not need re-visiting. They simply need to play better. With Finn - rated the No. 2 ODI bowler only six months ago - Pietersen and co fit and firing (yes, that is a leap of faith) they still have a method that can challenge against the best.

But the man who Cook has missed most is the man who perhaps best represents England's controversial ODI tactics better than anyone. Trott's ODI record will continue to vex some but the fact he is averages nearly 20% more than anyone who has ever represented England in the format (having played a minimum of 20 innings) and, with him in the side, England have won 19 of their last 26 matches. Without him they have lost eight out of 10.

Without these men, Cook was sent into battle without ammunition. What he requires now is time to rest and reflect on the impossible task he was given. If Cook was the right man to lead England's ODI side in June 2013 - and all the evidence suggests he was - then there is little reason to believe he is not the right man to lead them in June 2014.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by rsurex on (January 22, 2014, 20:05 GMT)

Luke Wright* is the attacking option available as an opener & he is an all rounder.... he's been performing really well in Big Bash..... JOE ROOT could have used in the middle order, BOPARA can send as no 3/4 he should bowl more overs.... England heavily rely on Morgan..... Interesting to see if England set to chase....COOK

Posted by CodandChips on (January 22, 2014, 17:47 GMT)

@dunger.bob Engalnd may have only played one extra test, but think of the ODIs. Whereas Australia change their ODI and test side every series, the core of the English team often remains the same for a lot of the year. Only this series and last have players been rested on bulk. Generally the likes of Anderson, Trott, Cook, Swann and Root all make the core of both the ODI and the Test team. Compare to Aus- in India you had Henriques and Maxwell in the test side. Wade was keeping. In the English ashes you had Khawaja, Agar, Pattinson, Bird all playing. In the ODIs in England you had Fawad Ahmed. Warner didn't play the ODIs in England, like most of your test squad. And on the mental side, the CT13 must have been mentally scarring. Losing the best chance of winning a 50 over competition in that way, at home as well.

Posted by BradmanBestEver on (January 22, 2014, 9:37 GMT)

He has no idea - replace him with someone who has a cricket brain

Posted by android_user on (January 22, 2014, 6:55 GMT)

yes. of course

Posted by oze13 on (January 21, 2014, 22:29 GMT)

More chance of reviving a dead duck! Can't believe he's still Captain. As clueless a Captain as there has ever been!

Posted by dunger.bob on (January 21, 2014, 21:57 GMT)

@ Ted Striker : So England have played one more test than Aus. That's kind of my point mate. That's 90 days play out of a possible 400 or so. Yeah, that's an unimaginably heavy workload. The poor things. .. All I can say is that they should try what I do for a living. They'd never get out of bed they'd be so had it.

Posted by durhamfootman on (January 21, 2014, 19:53 GMT)

with respect to george dobell, England do need to revisit their ODI tactics. New fielding restrictions and 2 balls have been introduced since England were top of the rankings and reaching CT finals. These are changes introduced with the specific purpose of increasing ODI scores. Englands 'safety first and score 250' policy will lose more matches than they win under the new rules, and the quicker England realise this, the better, or they will risk being humiliated again, in the WC next year.

Posted by jb633 on (January 21, 2014, 15:51 GMT)



There is the absolute undeniable proof about excuses coming from your camp. It is absolute garbage that your fans don't make excuses when your losing. The absolute proof in the pooding is in the link above. You cannot deny fact, it is there for you to have a look at. You are no different to any other cricketing nation, hot when you hot and ice cold when your not. You have been hot all sumemr and congrats for that. Don't start making non sensical statements though.

Posted by milepost on (January 21, 2014, 15:27 GMT)

@Ted Striker are you for real? A very modest difference in schedules and that's why England haven't won a game all tour? @dunger.bob has nailed it.

Posted by   on (January 21, 2014, 14:14 GMT)

In England's current situation, we have a clash of egos potentiated by an insecure captain. If a captain is assured and confidant he can manage the match winners (KP in this instance). History is full of examples, Imran-Miandad and Ponting-Warne are examples of not so distant past. The captain is neither confidant nor a good man manager. Worst he takes instructions from Flower and hence will never be respected by nonconformists like KP. He has to take reigns to assert his authority and earn respect. If England were wise, they would have changed the coach. They have taken all that could be taken from Flower. It is time to move in a new direction under new coach.

Posted by crockit on (January 21, 2014, 13:59 GMT)

Always whinge excuses - now workload is the excuse. He is a captain with no feel for the game in complete contrast to Clarke. Bell is the obvious choice if, as you say, he has shown tactical acumen when captaining warwickshire. Morgan would make more sense than Colly. Broad has enough on plate but if, as you say, he has a feel for game no harm in him being VC.

Posted by BradmanBestEver on (January 21, 2014, 12:37 GMT)

England's problem is that they do not have enough players with the required guts and determination to play consistently well at test level

The English selectors need to select players with more mental toughness otherwise they are in for a long, dark period of mediocrity.

Take a leaf out of the Aussies book - look back over history to find a case where the Aussies try and find excuses - you will not find any. Change your attitude England or expect more Ashes floggings

Posted by   on (January 21, 2014, 12:18 GMT)

"Did not hear any excuses when the Aussies lost the 2005 Ashes series due to the extreme bad luck of one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time stepping on a ball at practice did we?"

you're kidding, right BradmanBestEver? Plenty was said about McGrath missing 2 matches. Certainly more was said about it than the myriad of absent injured players for England in numerous series pre-2005.

No-one is denying that we're not good enough, but to say that there weren't moans and protestations and excuses about McGrath's injuries is revisionist history via the psychiatric ward.

Posted by Harlequin. on (January 21, 2014, 12:16 GMT)

@jackiethepen - pretty much spot on there. Burnout has nothing to do with his captaincy abilities.

My vote for new ODI captain - Morgan, though Tredwell might also be a good shout.

My vote for new Test captain - I'd love to say Root because I think he has the mental fortitude, knows the game well, and looks to be positive. The issue is that his batting has taken a downward turn of late (I suspect because his natural positivity is being coached out of him) so his spot in the team isn't guaranteed.

I'd keep Broad as far away from leadership as possible.

Posted by MDWillo79 on (January 21, 2014, 12:11 GMT)

Rest Cook? He was rested for the last 5 ODI's we played, if he'd have been rested here, that would've been 10 in a row he missed, as captain, away from his team. Sorry, but if someone needs resting for 10 games in a row then they shouldn't be captain!

Posted by espncricinfomobile on (January 21, 2014, 12:06 GMT)

Bradmanbesteve: Excuses excuses... still going on about a test match 9 years ago? Build a bridge mate.

Posted by android_user on (January 21, 2014, 11:17 GMT)

I've always noticed that a captain mirrors his playing style, especially batsman. aggressive batsman tend to be aggressive captains, like Clarke and perhaps Mahela. Cook as we know isn't that at all, his batting style is defensive and his main weapon is to tire the opposition out. unfortunately that's how he captain's eng. if he does decide to step down as ODI captain, I think the logical person to take over should be Morgan. Nothing wrong with Broad but given he'a fast bowler and Captain of the T20 side it won't be long before we start talking about his mental and physical fatigue. in fact I'd like to see Morgan captain the T20 side as well. If Cook decides to stay on as Test skipper I think he could learn quite a bit by looking at Mis bah. He took over captaincy of PAK in probably their worst time with controversy after controversy. Look where he's bought them now.

Posted by BradmanBestEver on (January 21, 2014, 11:02 GMT)

Excuses, Excuses .......yawn.

Did not hear any excuses when the Aussies lost the 2005 Ashes series due to the extreme bad luck of one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time stepping on a ball at practice did we?

Had McGrath not stepped on theta ball the Aussies would have won that series. Get real England - you are just not good enough and are on the way down

Posted by jackiethepen on (January 21, 2014, 10:07 GMT)

England teams are more vilified and criticised and generally abused by the media and fans than other teams in the world. That must take its toll. The problem with Cook though is not whether he's burnt out or tired but lack of captaincy ability. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. He's a very good opening batsmen and all the nonsense about ODI cricket doesn't apply to Cook or Bell who have made the best starts of any team in the world since they have been opening together. Warner and Finch can be picked up cheaply by decent bowlers. They go too hard at the ball too soon.

If Cook stays captain of the ODI side then loyalty to Cook is greater than sense.

Posted by   on (January 21, 2014, 9:42 GMT)

Morgan has a fantastic cricketing brain and possesses a naturally positive approach to the game, he'd be a good move for England's ODI future.

Posted by legbeforew on (January 21, 2014, 8:39 GMT)

Must agree with kav555 . These players do not play ANY County cricket during the season. This old chestnut about 'work load excess', stress etc., etc., as far as I am concerned, does not hold any water. They know full well the upcoming schedule when they sign those extremely lucrative central contracts. If you can't cope with the density of the schedule, then don't sign a contract, surely it is as simple as that.

Posted by kav555 on (January 21, 2014, 7:25 GMT)

I seriously believe something is fundamentally wrong: either it has got to do with how ECB schedules the cricket series or the mentality of the players which must be incredibly fragile. There are countries that play similar amount of cricket that English players play but why is it that English players come up with cases such as depression, mental breakdown and burnout!!!

Or is it simply a case of too much pampering that these players cannot withstand the RIGOURS of contemporary cricket.

It just appears that the English cricket is running around in circle.

Too many support staff, too much comfort treats yet too much burnout!

Posted by   on (January 21, 2014, 4:53 GMT)

@ maldon2adelaide Yes we do have those men ...but their style of play must be championed and persevered with and not altered to meet the styles of certain coachs.

Posted by   on (January 21, 2014, 4:43 GMT)

Same old story for the last 10 years. England can't play odi cricket because they lack talent. How many David Warner's, Aaron Finchs, Shaun Marsh, Chris Gayles, Yuvraj Singhs do they produce? The closest is probably Eoin Morgan and thats just 1 player. The so called attacking players they try never last because they aren't good enough, eg- Kieswetter, Lumb etc. Even if they get a decent start in the first 10 overs (60-0 for example which every1 thinks is the ball getting smashed to all parts), they get tied down by spinners and 1st, 2nd change bowlers when the field is out. Reason being they don't have the ability to still hit boundaries. Been happening for so many years now. They only play well if they are at home and the conditions suit the quicks which never happens anywhere else in world. Doesnt even happen that much at home these days the pitches are pretty flat for ODIs. They need som1 in the top 3 that can score a 100 at more than a run a ball. SR of 120-130...

Posted by maldon2adelaide on (January 21, 2014, 3:46 GMT)

I find it difficult to understand the tactics of English cricket and as an Englishman living in Australia I can understand the derision at which our cricket is played. can you be serious George in considering our tatics are correct pointing to the champions trophy loss as a beaon of light. We managed not to win a tournament played in the Northern Hemisphere in May. To actually win something perhaps the steady as she goes attitude wil l not suffice. to win something you need an X factor which is surely missing from our ODI top order. Our future at least in the short formats might be best addressed with players like Hayles & Wright. It is time to move on from attritional test cricket and percentage short format cricket. We need men that will push the bar up and think outside the square. Do we have those men?

Posted by   on (January 21, 2014, 3:27 GMT)


Since The period November 2012 England have played one more test. Australian players have enjoyed 'rotation' or been injured/ crud and have thus played less. Alastair cook has captained more games since this period as Clarke as had a crook back / been tired and has enjoyed time off.

Schedule will certainly played a part when one team has played significantly more than the other team.

Posted by satishchandar on (January 21, 2014, 3:15 GMT)

As for me, there are only 2 attacking captains now in the world cricket.. Brendon and Clarke.. Even Smith is a defensive captain when things goes wrong.. Misbah, Cook, MSD, Mathews all prefer being defensive by run saving over picking wickets by attacking..

As for Cook, he had previlage of captaining one of very good bowling attack last couple of years. Just like Misbah and Smith.. When bowlers don't pick wickets, it will be a mayhem for a bowling oriented team. Same like India - When batsmen fail, match over..

Posted by dunger.bob on (January 21, 2014, 1:48 GMT)

Still rabbiting on about the schedule I see. It's like this. If you can't play 10-15 Tests a year than you are weak and unworthy. The Aussies went to India, got smashed. Then they went pretty much straight to England, got smashed. Back to Australia, did some smashing of their own for a change. Guess what, they're off to SA in the next short while where they will get smashed again according to most. By my reckoning that will be 17 Tests in about a year. .. Do the Aussies complain about over work. Not bloody likely. They know it's an honour to represent their country and if they get done by the Saffers I bet you right now that weariness won't be an excuse you'll see from us.

If England are genuinely flogged out then you need to look at your system, coaching and management for failing to find a way to meet the challenge. Anything else is clutching at straws and perpetuating the theory that England have no stamina, guts or kahuna's. .. Sorry, but that's how it looks from down here.

Posted by vswami on (January 21, 2014, 1:40 GMT)

England keeps on complaining about touring while rest of the world gets on with it. It seems they want to play within 50 mile radius of London for 11 months a year and yet earn millions of dollars.

Posted by delboy on (January 21, 2014, 0:20 GMT)

Granted that Willis has spent more talking a game than he ever played in and I actually witnessed him walking all the way to the middle and was about to take guard before remembering he needed to take a cricket bat; is he really qualified to judge Cook's mental ability to carry on as the England captain?

Posted by RandyOZ on (January 20, 2014, 23:31 GMT)

Honestly one of the worst captains going around. Not that great a batsman either. Ashes averages either side of this 127 average. 29, 27, 24, 27

Posted by Kayferz on (January 20, 2014, 23:12 GMT)

The comment about limited cross-over in the future between test and ODI cricket is interesting. I wonder, if players were forced to choose between the two formats, what they would go for.

Test Cricket. Long, long tours.

ODI / T20 Short tours Short games. More rest. More money.

Hmmm. What would the long term impact of this be on test cricket?

Posted by dabbadubba on (January 20, 2014, 22:55 GMT)

I think cook should retire from ODIs and concentrate on bringing eng back to top 3 position in test cricket..

Posted by android_user on (January 20, 2014, 22:52 GMT)

cook will be fine, life is hard and winning makes you soft , look at Swann as an example of that. Ravi has stood by his mate today, that's what you do when times are tough stand up. What Cook learns will shape the rest of his sporting life.

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (January 20, 2014, 21:47 GMT)

Cook without Trott has been left with too much to do and has wilted. No wonder. Trott has been a huge person in the side-Mr Reliable. Root has been called in to cover and the result has been alarming. He is nowhere near covering for Trott and has buckled too. Pressure is building for Cook, and obviously it is too much. Something has to give.There is no easy solution. Cook has to go away rest and deal with his life and then try and resuscitate his batting. One just has to hope Bell doesn't crumble. It is unrealistic to expect Stokes and Ballance to pick up the pieces. The future is hard to predict except it will be very hard work. It's a pity Thorpe can't come out of retirement. He was a genius in this form of cricket.

Posted by jackiethepen on (January 20, 2014, 18:23 GMT)

Some t20s seem to be heading in the opposite direction judging by some low and slow scoring Big Bash games, pragmatist.

However the big problem with Cook is not his batting - that will come good surely - but his overall leadership and on field tactics when the going gets tough. It got tough in India in 2011 and the team - a different team - fell apart with everyone bickering on the field and Cook unable to inspire them.

Let's face it Cook was picked by Flower as his favourite - Essex connection - and Flower has cold-shouldered other likely candidates. Bell was seen off as Cook's possible rival in 2011 - and subsequently messed about. It wasn't until KP's sudden departure that Bell was promoted to open. Flower changed his mind about Bell, but not about protecting Cook as captain. His endless talking up of Cook goes on despite all the evidence to the contrary. It can bring only disaster. Bell could captain under Giles but not under Flower. Flower likes to dictate to Giles, to everyone.

Posted by espncricinfomobile on (January 20, 2014, 18:16 GMT)

Cook will stands own as captain in the next few weeks mark my words. If he keeps his spot full stop

Posted by CodandChips on (January 20, 2014, 18:06 GMT)

@Manxmuppet I reckon back to back ashes was largely done on sentiment. If you were to ask most English or Australian fans what their favourite series is, I assume that most would pick the ashes without hesitation.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (January 20, 2014, 17:53 GMT)

It isn't always something that it's easy to put your finger on, but I suspect that I'm not alone in not seeing Cook as an effective capt in any form of the internat game. He is an earnest, straight-line thinker that looks suddenly lost once a situation has slipped out of control (i.e. isn't going to an anticipated, pre-play script delivered by his coach & analyst). Thereafter, it's captaincy by committee & it ain't pretty & it ain't effective. On top of that, he surrenders his authority to team members if they are star performers (e.g. Eoin Morgan's insistence on batting 5, when 4 might well be better, strategically). I've said this before: captaincy is a lonely business; he must take & stand by his decisions. If he's good or outstanding, his plans will come off more often than not. Vitally, he must intuit a situation, back a hunch, roll the dice at the right intuited moment. Yes, Cook has had atrocious luck (Trott, Swann), but even so, tricks that could have been won have been lost

Posted by CodandChips on (January 20, 2014, 17:49 GMT)

Excellent article but I would have liked to se your opinion on who should lead the side in each format? Would you stick with Cook. Personally I'd keep Cook in tests and pick Morgan in ODIs. For me, Morgan is a perfect choice because: 1.He's an automatic selection 2.He's got some experience 3.He's a fighter- shown this series through his batting and his argument with Clarke. Would be a natural leader 4.Tactically aware- shown through his batting by the way he orchestrates his innings 5.Doesn't play test cricket, therefore would have no need to be rested from ODIs.

Disagree on the ODI tactics. Perhaps the success was founded on bowling, therefore once the bowlers are rested/lose form, it's gone to pot. Batting in ODIs has never really been there.

Good point on Trott. Loved him in ODIs.

Posted by Manxmuppet on (January 20, 2014, 17:29 GMT)

I still can't work out quite how playing 10 back to back test matches was in anyone's best interests. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and we were all very excited that England were heading over to try for 4 in a row, but it now seems pretty obvious that those who were playing in home conditions and could get adequate rest and support would come out on top. I genuinely feel sorry for the England squad who, because of the money grabbing whims of the ECB and CA have been reduced to an international laughing stock. Why could the return Ashes not have been delayed until after the World Cup?.........because an extra Ashes series means more money.

Now the core of the squad, who have been so successful in the past, are on their knees. The (also previously successful) selection policy of sticking with the same players has resulted in the back up consisting of untried and out of practice players who aren't used to the conditions.

I really hope all nations can learn from this debarcle.

Posted by sreni on (January 20, 2014, 16:53 GMT)

Poor article, seems to suggest if Trott, finn & co are available they might have won these three matches..none of them did nothing during the Ashes series, here alone how they will do well. English will never understand they are not up to the standard at this level, but will always try to give some explanation. English ppl needs to show performance in the ground not in articles..

Posted by   on (January 20, 2014, 16:52 GMT)

Ideally, I would recommend a straight swap of Cook with Pietersen. Get KP more engaged at the top of the order. Maybe Morgan could be captain. Also lets not select Tin Bresnan any more. He's lost his sting. Probably a good time to see what the Overtons are capable of if they are firing in domestic cricket.

Posted by pragmatist on (January 20, 2014, 16:28 GMT)

No, Cook is not the right man to lead England in ODIs. Simple as that. He is a Test player and should focus on leading in Tests. It's not too late to change direction and bring an aggressive opener like Hales or even Carberry into the side. ODIs are getting more and more like extended T20s and England should bite the bullet now.

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