England news December 19, 2014

Cook sacked as England one-day captain

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Cook's position had become untenable

Alastair Cook has been removed as England's one-day captain, according to widespread but as yet unconfirmed reports, with Eoin Morgan appointed to lead England at the World Cup that starts in February.

England's World Cup captaincy was thrashed out during hours of deliberations at Trent Bridge on Friday as the selectors wrestled with a decision they had done everything to avoid. The ECB is expected to confirm Morgan as the new captain on Saturday less than two months before the start of the tournament although the man himself is currently in Australia preparing for his Big Bash League stint.

Cook, 29, has struggled for a long time in one-day cricket, scoring only one half-century in his last 22 innings in ODIs. England have also lost five of their last six multi-match series and the 5-2 series defeat has seen the selectors take action.

Pressure has been building for much of the past year for England's selectors to jettison Cook, as he became a symbol for England's conservative approach to one-day cricket both as a batsman and captain, but they repeatedly tried to bolster his position in the forlorn hope that he would rediscover his form.

That desire was based not only on the wish for continuity, but upon an underlying sense of loyalty to Cook after he had unprotestingly accepted the decision to call time on Kevin Pietersen's England career after an Ashes whitewash nearly a year ago.

Now England's selectors have voted to replace Cook in the face of strong expressions of loyalty towards him by the managing director of England cricket, Paul Downton. As recently as Monday, Downton reaffirmed his belief that Cook was England's "natural leader" and said he would be very surprised if he was not captain at the World Cup.

Downton's view that the selectors would take "more risks" if they replaced Cook might also have been accepted as fact by those officially charged with making the decision, even as they opted for change, but by then it had been concluded that the risk was worth taking and preferable to the sense of inertia that has settled over the England one-day side.

Peter Moores, England's coach, also expressed personal support for Cook right up to the end, but a majority feeling emerged among the selectorial quartet - the chairman James Whitaker, former England bowler and Middlesex director of cricket Angus Fraser, and Nottinghamshire director of cricket Mick Newell - that, however inconveniently, the case for change had become impossible to ignore.

Cook was appointed in the wake of England's failed challenge in the 2011 World Cup, a time when his place in the one-day side was not regarded as automatic. From the outset the decision was questioned; Tony Greig called it "deadly dangerous" and an error of judgment by England's team director Andy Flower.

England won 36 and lost 30 of their 69 matches under his leadership; that record, too, was worsening with only 15 victories in the last 37. The recent slump in form from both Cook and the team had threatened to make England's World Cup challenge a non-event.

Morgan's form has been equally alarming with only one half-century in his last 19 innings, but that half-century came when he stood in for Cook, who was suspended for a match because he presided over England's slow over rate, during the seven-match Sri Lanka series. Morgan averages 71 in his eight matches as captain and England ware now clinging to the hope that such an inspirational record will be reborn.

Cook's sense of duty and strong will meant that he was not about to stand down no matter how consuming his problems in one-day cricket began. His wish to lead England in the World Cup never wavered. But when he philosophically remarked at the end of the Sri Lanka series that it was down to the selectors to decide his future there was an underlying sense that he had invited them to act should they so wish.

"If the decision goes that way I can't do much about it. I haven't scored the number of runs I would like and we haven't won the number of games I would like," he said.

England are now left with three captains in three different formats, with Stuart Broad the incumbent in T20 cricket. There is no expectation at present that Cook will lose his Test captaincy and, as Morgan is a long way from the Test side, it is difficult to see how such a bandwagon could gain momentum.

Instead of the constant negativity that has surrounded Cook's tenure in recent months - with influential former England figures seemingly united in the view that there was a need for change - England's selectors are now relying on a burst of fresh dressing room optimism and energy to carry them through. Importantly, too, the cynicism and weariness which has descended upon many England cricket supporters to a disturbing degree has been addressed.

With England involved in a non-stop schedule of international cricket for the next year or more, Cook now has a chance to to restore his energy, regain certainty in his game, and lead England in Test series against West Indies immediately after the World Cup and in New Zealand and Australia next summer.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

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