England were wrong to sack me - Cook
Alastair Cook has claimed that the ECB's decision to relieve him of the England captaincy a matter of weeks before the World Cup has been proved wrong in hindsight and described the players as looking "shellshocked" during a disastrous campaign that ended at the group stage.
Cook was sacked in December, amid worsening results and after going more than two years without an ODI hundred. Speaking in Dubai for the launch of the Emirates T20 - Cook is in the UAE to take part in the Champion County match between MCC against Yorkshire - he said that England appeared to lack for leadership after heavy defeats against Australia and New Zealand in their first two World Cup games set them on the road to an early exit.
"I'm always going to have a slightly biased view on that. I was there for three-and-a-half years trying to do a job," he said. "We got to number one in the world with a full strength side and got to the final of the Champions Trophy. There were things I can be very proud of. As any captain will tell you, leading your country in a World Cup is a huge honour and one that can never be taken lightly. I was very much looking forward to that.
"I understand the pressure I was under. I wasn't scoring the runs I should, or could, have been scoring, so I understand that my position was in jeopardy. I said at the end of Sri Lanka that if there was a change, I couldn't complain because I hadn't scored the runs.
"But I think you saw in Australia the dangers of making such a big decision so close to the tournament. I don't know what's gone on on that tour, and I can only speak from watching a little bit from afar, but it did look like the lads were shellshocked from the first two games. That's when you need real leadership to help steer you through that. Whether I would have made a difference, I don't know. But I was fully confident we would get out of our group, and from there, you've got to win three games in a row - that's how this World Cup has worked.
"I can't speak about what's gone on there in depth, but you always back yourself, and I would have loved to have had the opportunity that was taken away from me. The selectors made that decision because they thought it was the best for English cricket. Hindsight has probably proved them wrong, but now it's very easy to say that."
Cook has been training with Essex since his removal, preparing for England's Test tour of the West Indies, the squad for which was announced on Wednesday. The dismal World Cup showing has increased the pressure on head coach Peter Moores - who, as one of the selectors, was involved in the ODI captaincy decision - but Cook reiterated his support.
"As always in this day and age - we talk about football managers and it's coming into cricket now, it's a results-driven business," he said. "There's no doubt about it, there's pressure on him. There's pressure on all of us. All I can say is that I've really, really enjoyed working with Peter. In my eyes, he's a fantastic coach who needs a bit of luck for that to come out. I enjoy working with him and the lads do. I hope he stays and gets the opportunity to turn it round. I've only got good things to say about him."
England's success in coming from 1-0 down to beat India 3-1 in the Test series last summer was one of the reasons the management persisted with Cook in charge of the one-day side. The encouragement of three successive Test victories has long since dissipated, however, as England lurched through six months of ODI cricket in preparation for the World Cup, which included heavy reverses against India and Sri Lanka.
Cook conceded that, a year after England's post-Ashes rebuilding job began, they would have to start the job of changing perceptions once again.
"What's happened this winter, the fans will be feeling disappointed, and there's a bit of doom and gloom about English cricket," he said. "We've got the responsibility as a Test side, a different format, to go out and try and change that and start turning it around again. That is the challenge we've got.
"We built that momentum a little bit after the Ashes with a slightly younger side, including the likes of Gary Ballance and Joe Root. There was a feel-good factor about the English game in the middle of August after the Test matches. Since then, it's been tough going. We've got to rebuild again."
Asked whether the Test team's momentum had been lost, Cook replied: "I wouldn't say all of it has been, but a hell of a lot of it has been. You have to remember that it is a different format and you get a change, but all teams are grouped under the same English cricket umbrella, and we can't be naive enough to think that it's not. We have a repairing job to do, and the only way of doing that is by playing some good cricket and to start winning."