England cricket June 27, 2014

The case for Cook's defence

Half a dozen reasons why Alastair Cook should keep padding away the king of Australian spin

Alastair Cook has come in for a sustained barrage of criticism from Shane Warne over his Test captaincy, the latest calling for him to take a break from the game. ESPNcricinfo has come up with half a dozen reasons why Cook should keep padding away the king of Australian spin.

What would Warnie do?
Famously dismissive of authority figures - coaches being a method of transportation, etc - Warne spent most of his career doing just as he jolly well pleased. Would he listen to the advice of an ex-rival Pom conveyed via the medium of a newspaper column? He would more likely smoke it. The only way to earn Warne's respect is for Cook to flick him the metaphorical v's and continue to lead England in the most tactically inept manner possible.

It's in the blood(line)
While Warne was never trusted to captain Australia's Test side, due to his various colourful indiscretions, Cook was anointed for his current role long ago. In fact, as Giles Clarke has confirmed, Cook and his family are just the right sort of people for the England captaincy. This is something Warne, despite his previous connection to the British aristocracy through Elizabeth Hurley, could not possibly understand. Cook should not have to apologise for the privileges life has bestowed upon him; Warne's manifest jealousy as one of international cricket captaincy's have-nots is another reason to rise above it all.

Dig for victory
Some advise that, when life and its demands are getting on top of you, a break from it all will help clear the mind and refresh the body. Others take the view that rest is for sissies and keep on driving themselves into the ground with an increasingly relentless fervour. As the England cricket captain, and therefore one of society's exemplars, Cook should feel no compunction when it comes to denying there is a problem, stiffening his resolve and continuing to dig. "When you're going through Hell, keep going," said Churchill. Remember, a backward step is a greater sign of weakness than bowing to public opinion and putting another man in the slips.

Winning isn't everything
The English, and in particular the game of cricket, have always stood for the principles of fair play. The desire to win all the time is both ungentlemanly and morally suspect; indeed, Cook's recent record (P7 L6 W0) might be seen as merely a display of good manners, evening the ledger after an unseemly amount of success during his first year in charge. England's two Tests against Sri Lanka also provided a shot in the arm for the format, twice going down to the last few deliveries and resulting in one of the greatest turnarounds in the history of the game. If it requires a display of the "worst captaincy ever seen" to benefit the commonweal, well Cook is demonstrably the man for the job.

Nothing to see here
What does a captain do beyond calling the toss of a coin, anyway? Although, as Cook has won a statistically unimpressive nine in 23 Tests, perhaps Warne has a point on this one.

Don't trust the Aussie
Warne claims that his critique is implicitly honest, because if he were really playing Ashes mind games, he would want to keep Cook in the job until Australia's arrival next year. But, just as Warne was forever claiming to have invented deliveries that didn't exist, it seems fair to assume he is not above slipping in the odd reverse psychological googly (which, of course, goes the other other way). One of Warne's recent mantras has been about captains being "prepared to lose to win" and Cook has certainly become adept at the first part. Perhaps, as with Australia's upsurge after losing seven Tests out of nine before the 5-0 Ashes whitewash, England are on the brink of a similar bounce and Warne just doesn't want them to realise it. Ignore him Cookie, it's all going to plan!

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

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