England in India 2012-13 January 2, 2013

Cook ready for 'unknown territory'


There is no need to ask Alastair Cook what his New Year's resolution is. As he walked with a relaxed stride on Wednesday evening to board the flight to India, to lead England in the one-day series, he only had victory on his mind. And nothing was going to betray his confidence.

You can remind him about India being the defending world champions in the 50-over format. You can remind him about the 5-0 annihilation MS Dhoni's men inflicted on England in late 2011, not to mention the same in 2008 and the 6-1 drubbing in 2005-06. But Cook can equally shoot back out about the historic triumph against India in the Test leg, which allowed the England players to celebrate a lovely Christmas at home. And without being combative, he could at the same time remind you that England, and not India, are the No.1 on the ODI rankings.

Of course, Cook did not say any of those things at the team departure press conference. What he did say, though, was the one-day players will do well to adopt a similar approach and work ethic as practiced by the Test squad: adapt, work hard and enjoy.

"We can definitely take some confidence as a batting unit, especially the way we handled their spinners after that first innings in Ahmedabad. We have got to do something like that once again in the ODIs if we want to win."

Yet Cook is aware of the challenge awaiting his team. Missing from the first-choice ODI squad are the trio of James Anderson, Graeme Swann and Jonathan Trott ,who have been allowed to rest as part of the selectors' plan to keep England squads competitive at all times across all formats, along with Jonny Bairstow who is on compassionate leave.

"Every time you start the tour it is a huge challenge," Cook said. "I sat here two-and-half months ago saying to win a Test series in India would be an amazing experience and to do that was a great effort by the whole squad. India in their backyard in one-day cricket is again a huge challenge for us. We lost 5-0 last time, so it will be a good measure of us as a side to see how we have improved. But again we have got a squad that is capable of doing something special."

England have done special things in the last few years but one of the key driving forces, Andy Flower, the team director, will be absent this time India. Flower and the ECB recently agreed that he had to achieve a "realistic and sustainable work-life balance", he had to take frequent breaks. Under Flower, since May 2007, England's ODI record win-loss record was 60-52 in 120 matches. In 2012 England won 12 ODIs and lost two with series wins against Pakistan (4-0 in UAE), Australia (4-0 at home) and West Indies (2-0 at home).

To try and help ensure a smooth transition as Flower steps aside from the one-day squad, the ECB the former England left-arm spinner and current selector Ashley Giles. Asked if the relationship with Giles, with whom he has never worked in a similar manner before, would be hard to establish, Cook disagreed.

He said Giles was an important influence when he entered the England dressing room for the first time in 2006. According to Cook, Giles was the facilitator, acting as the channel between the players and Duncan Fletcher, the then England coach.

"He was a senior citizen of the side when I went to Pakistan. He was kind of called the dad in one way," he said. "He was that gel in the middle of the team, always looking after players. He was the bridge between Duncan Fletcher and some of the players and I see him carrying along that kind of relationship with the players now as a coach."

Flower, Cook maintains, remains the "boss" and is just a "telephone call" away in case of any emergency. But that did not mean they would have to wait for him to take every call as it was the responsibility of him and Giles to take forward the ODI team. The key in making sure this new coaching set-up runs smoothly is to communicate openly and clearly.

"It is an unknown territory and we haven't done it before," Cook said. "But it is a bit like the three captains. It was new, it was fresh and I thought it worked really well because of the energy those three captains brought to each different side. And I can see this having the same effect on the coaching side with Test and ODIs being split. We all will have to work hard on the relationship and we all are going to have to communicate really well to do it. But as we get used to it, the relationship will improve."

Neither does Cook want comparisons drawn between Giles and Flower. "Of course, they are going to be different because they are different characters, they are different people. What is important is all three of us work together and have a strong relationship because you do need a strong leadership. Gilo will have to get used to me as a captain and I'll have to get used to him as a coach just like I Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss did."

Like any good forward-thinking leader, Cook did not waste time and has taken the initiative to meet Giles a "few times", to make sure both men get acquainted to each other's styles and thoughts quickly. The next few weeks will not define the partnership, but it will lay down some early markers.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sharon on January 4, 2013, 23:18 GMT

    Ah I see that top England fan and major COMEDY BOY @RandyOZ is back on that famous rickety ship full of Australians led by a South Afican coach.... So according to you @RandyOZ "Swann not being able to turn it anymore" comedy, comedy comedy. If only Australia has such richs as Swann or Monty Panesar they may even have a chance in India - but no. "Cook has a lot on his plate". Sure Randy - his tactics in The Ashes were to bat and bat and bat and then win the Compton Millar Medal and in this way give the team a break in the Pavilion. These are the tactic that won them an Ashes series. Maybe you remember it.

  • Sriram on January 4, 2013, 12:11 GMT

    A 3-0 drubbing by Pak is all England will want, on the other hand, it is also what India needs before the Eng series to shake up their team. All in all, a fantastic oppurtunity for England to further humiliate India in thier own backyard. As Indian fan not lost hope with team yet, but its fading more so with an arrogant and abmysal management. Duncan has to go, so must Dhoni in Tests, while Viru and Gauti needs a kick in the back just like Zak got recently. Cook, Bell will be key in this ODIs..I see both getting 100s and Morgan winning a game with his switch hit..Either way i see 3-2 not sure which one will win though.

  • Nicholas on January 4, 2013, 8:54 GMT

    @sachin_vvsfan (post on January 04 2013, 07:48 AM GMT): Yeah we haven't heard from 5Wombats since his surgery... I hope he is O.K. We need more level-headed comments for a change.

  • sri on January 4, 2013, 7:48 GMT

    Perhaps this is the best opportunity for cooks team to win an odi series in india. We fans are fed up with the non performing players who have no desire to play for nation. India is now like what Eng was in 90s and early 2000.

    For a change i want india to field all young/inexperienced/u19 players like U chand , rahane. I wouldn't mind 5-0 loss if we can unearth a batsman as good as kholi. Enough of gambhirs,jadjea and sehwags.

    Also where is 5wombats?. He is not seen now-a-days. Hope he is doing fine.

  • michael on January 4, 2013, 0:48 GMT

    Swann obviously took 20 odd wickets against India and 50 odd in a calender year by not turning the ball!.....meanwhile Lyon is made to look ordinary by one of the worst travelling sides in the world at the moment. Bell and Trott's form in ODI cricket has been excellent, so again wrong on that score....what Australia would do for batsmen like those who average in the high 40's in test cricket. Its just more ammunition to throw back come August when the urn is retained....AGAIN.

  • Michael on January 3, 2013, 21:37 GMT

    England should feel they have nothing to fear in this series. It is not the india we have known . Pakistan have already softened them up for us.

  • Nicholas on January 3, 2013, 21:07 GMT

    It's not exactly going very smoothly for India against Pakistan at the moment in the current ODI series, so I agree with jmcilhinney: this upcoming encounter ought to be closer than most expect... dare I say perhaps even a shock or three in store...? Yes Swann is missing... England are full of B's in their bonnets with question marks over Bell/Broad/Bresnan... but Tredwell is awesome and young Briggs looks promising; Woakes definitely deserves a decent run; surely at least one of Cook/Pietersen/Morgan can do something of note... Even Kieswetter is due another wee run of some sort of good form aint he?

  • Mark on January 3, 2013, 18:40 GMT

    @SanuelH That is most unfair. Weren't the last two series 5-0, as predicted by various Australians? I seem to remember RandyOz predicting that England would lose every single game on the last visit to Australia for the Ashes. Definitely time to blood players to see who is ready to step in next summer in the case of injuries. India are down at present (the T20s and the ODI v Pak have shown that India are struggling in all formats) and Alistair Cook has to keep them down: this is definitely our best opportunity for a while to win an ODI series in India.

  • Mark on January 3, 2013, 18:03 GMT

    @landl, it's what we did last winter and it ended up 5-0. However, I can only agree with you about Woakes. There are plenty of people who think that he could do a job in the Test side, but the only way to find out if he can cut it is to play him against decent opposition in difficult condtions. This is very much last chance saloon for Bresnan and, potentially, for Broad. I can see the side chasing targets with a decent batting line-up, but struggling to contain and to defend them with the bowlers. Meaker and Woakes will have Bresnan and Broad waching anxiously over their shoulders, which will do none of the four any harm.

  • Shanmugam on January 3, 2013, 17:18 GMT

    @Charlie101, of course, they need to find someone who can bat at #6 but not just #6. There are only 2 capable Aussie test batsmen now - Clarke and Watson. The rest are mediocre cricketers - walking wickets which England's bowlers cant wait to bowl to. Before that, however, the Aussies will need to get their due hammering from India in India. The Aussies derided our win there saying that anyone could beat India. Let's see what they do there with their so-called 'spinner' Lyon. Cant wait for the Ashes mainly to read RandyOZ's rants even after we repeatedly trounce the Aussies:-)