June 22, 2014

Cook needs to get on the front foot

More intent to stay forward at the crease and on the field as captain will help mute his harshest critics - one in particular
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Captain Cook is on the bridge. His cry for help to shut down his non-playing arch- rival, Shane Warne, has been bellowed across the bow. It's official: the normally calm run machine feels the guns have turned on him. And he has fired back. While there is much to do in Test-match battle this summer, Alastair Cook may just have stirred up more for himself.

While Cook is firmly in fight mode, he could also take stock. It's easier said than done, but when you are getting sliced from all sides - including recently from his own Gray- Nicolls blade - you must change tact. His batting needs a warrant of fitness, his mood a new registration. I can't remember when he last played a genuine straight drive down the ground in a Test, with feet and body in a commanding forward position.

Playing straight is vital for any opener, but an absolute prerequisite for the English captain, on and off the field. He has to get on the front foot when facing Asian bowling attacks, and he has to let every single bouncer he receives off the field go aimlessly by. To listen to any of it is akin to playing on while trying to cut too close to his body.

You wonder if it's all becoming too much: whether Cook is standing on a bow about to break. Short-term relief by virtue of some time in the middle will not change the criticism from certain quarters. He needs everything to spruce up to stop the barking. His batting of late, his tactics, his slow over rate, his press conferences, are all exposing a man who never really naturally has owned that X factor needed to lead. Maybe his retort to Warne is a sign of a nice guy putting on a mask for the first time.

Cook has two solutions to consider, leading to the one silver lining. Firstly, if he can actually let go of some of his old ways and go for broke with a glass-half-full approach in all his roles as the leader. Then he may well enjoy the transformation. Secondly, he must get back to going forward at the crease.

This extravagant back-foot, bat-pumping-high method has edged over the threshold and is on the verge of derailing his whole game. As a keen observer I feel softer, lower hands, a lower sense of gravity, less back-stepping, and more intent to stay forward could solve his ability to play a good all-round game again. Playing back successfully actually comes from a good press off the front foot, once forced back after intending to get forward. Cook's back-foot game is in danger of being dismantled as well, as seen in the first innings at Lord's, due to the leaning back that comes from the excessive back-stepping.

Meanwhile, Warne is like a dog with a bone. He makes some excellent points, but he simply can't resist repeating it over and over, the record broken. As a result he is losing some of the commentary kudos he earned. He speaks so fast, with no end in sight, that his opinions often don't match the live play being acted out in front of his eyes. Less is more, mate. No one is disputing the content of his wisdom, just the volume and repetition.

The ECB hasn't helped its captain. Unfairly, one would assume, a massive amount of responsibility pointed to Cook as nearly a whole management team was sacked and replaced by a nervous one. Worst of all, the Kevin Pietersen sacking has become Cook's burden to bear, whether he was instrumental in it or not. Whatever the truth, Cook must certainly have regretted ever getting involved in selection the first minute he was named to replace Strauss. He was a young rookie captain back then, and one under siege at present. Selectors should take the heat for all selections, coaches for the preparation, the captain for the on-field execution. A burden like that can only weigh you down, and must be removed.

Whatever the truth, Cook must certainly have regretted ever getting involved in an individual selection of the magnitude of Pietersen the first minute he was in charge. It haunts him now.

The past is history and pointless, the future a complete unknown and an illusion. So only the next ball can be on Cook's mind from here on. In truth, if he can quieten his mind and just be attracted to the movement of the ball - the way of playing that secured his 25 well-earned centuries - and go on the attack in the field as he showed glimpses of doing in Leeds on day one, then England and their proud skipper will find the broken record may have been muted for good.

Martin Crowe, one of the leading batsmen of the late '80s and early '90s, played 77 Tests for New Zealand

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on June 26, 2014, 0:16 GMT

    the next five tests will, without doubt, be Cook's turning point. India's attack will be his saviour!

  • on June 25, 2014, 21:07 GMT

    Bring on Indian bowling & all batting problems solved................runs runs & lots of runs .....vs Ind Batsmen only get out when they r bored of piling runs or r badly tired

  • Viratkohlirocks on June 24, 2014, 4:09 GMT

    Not to worry. All Cook needs is that five match series againt India, hell score another 7 centuries and alll will be well

  • its.rachit on June 23, 2014, 16:56 GMT

    Outside of England, Australia/Pak/SA/NZ are the strongest pace bowling attacks in the world .. and in a combined 58 matches against these 4 teams, COOK averages a mighty 37 ... draw whatever inference you wan to out of these numbers, the picture is pretty clear ....

  • on June 23, 2014, 9:57 GMT

    Central Idea of the article: "Playing back successfully actually comes from a good press off the front foot, once forced back after intending to get forward." Can't agree more!

  • on June 23, 2014, 6:41 GMT

    @Dales Guy New Zealand have Tim Southee averaging 21 from past 2 years and Trent Boult who clocks till 145 ks. And relentless Neil Wagner. I haven't even mentioned Matt Henry and Adam Milne. We have best bowling attack after Saffas and Aussies. I hope geography doesn't confuse you now.

  • __PK on June 23, 2014, 1:56 GMT

    But nothing changes. The number one problem for England is Cook's captaincy and it's not getting any better. Why expect Warne to change his answer to the obvious question "What's going wrong?"

  • DalesGuy on June 22, 2014, 20:36 GMT

    'He has to get on the front foot when facing Asian bowling attacks...' Martin, did you think that New Zealnad is in Asia? LOL.

  • on June 22, 2014, 19:38 GMT

    We are making much about nothing. Cook had a phenomenal run sometime back. Even then I had predicted that the law of averages will catch up with him and he will hit a slump. My only worry is, will India (as is its wont) grant him the boon of recovery ;)

  • on June 22, 2014, 19:14 GMT

    Cook may be out of form, but no one needs form when playing against India's pace attack. Cook could probably make a run-a-ball century in the first test match. On the other hand, Ashwin may cause him some issues.

  • on June 26, 2014, 0:16 GMT

    the next five tests will, without doubt, be Cook's turning point. India's attack will be his saviour!

  • on June 25, 2014, 21:07 GMT

    Bring on Indian bowling & all batting problems solved................runs runs & lots of runs .....vs Ind Batsmen only get out when they r bored of piling runs or r badly tired

  • Viratkohlirocks on June 24, 2014, 4:09 GMT

    Not to worry. All Cook needs is that five match series againt India, hell score another 7 centuries and alll will be well

  • its.rachit on June 23, 2014, 16:56 GMT

    Outside of England, Australia/Pak/SA/NZ are the strongest pace bowling attacks in the world .. and in a combined 58 matches against these 4 teams, COOK averages a mighty 37 ... draw whatever inference you wan to out of these numbers, the picture is pretty clear ....

  • on June 23, 2014, 9:57 GMT

    Central Idea of the article: "Playing back successfully actually comes from a good press off the front foot, once forced back after intending to get forward." Can't agree more!

  • on June 23, 2014, 6:41 GMT

    @Dales Guy New Zealand have Tim Southee averaging 21 from past 2 years and Trent Boult who clocks till 145 ks. And relentless Neil Wagner. I haven't even mentioned Matt Henry and Adam Milne. We have best bowling attack after Saffas and Aussies. I hope geography doesn't confuse you now.

  • __PK on June 23, 2014, 1:56 GMT

    But nothing changes. The number one problem for England is Cook's captaincy and it's not getting any better. Why expect Warne to change his answer to the obvious question "What's going wrong?"

  • DalesGuy on June 22, 2014, 20:36 GMT

    'He has to get on the front foot when facing Asian bowling attacks...' Martin, did you think that New Zealnad is in Asia? LOL.

  • on June 22, 2014, 19:38 GMT

    We are making much about nothing. Cook had a phenomenal run sometime back. Even then I had predicted that the law of averages will catch up with him and he will hit a slump. My only worry is, will India (as is its wont) grant him the boon of recovery ;)

  • on June 22, 2014, 19:14 GMT

    Cook may be out of form, but no one needs form when playing against India's pace attack. Cook could probably make a run-a-ball century in the first test match. On the other hand, Ashwin may cause him some issues.

  • ksquared on June 22, 2014, 18:36 GMT

    Cook has been woefully out of form but credit should be given to the SL bowlers especially Eranga and Pradeep. They have bowled wonderfully well considering it's their first tour to ENG the duo will definitely be a force to be recon with in the future. As far as Cook goes probably offfield distractions and the lack of runs will start to affect his captaincy if it hasn't already. .

  • stevemano on June 22, 2014, 18:18 GMT

    As usual great wisdom from a champion player. Leadership is complicated and Cook needs to be successful as a batsman first before becoming a Leader. So great advice.

  • Criketanand on June 22, 2014, 18:16 GMT

    @Greatest_Game. relax mate. its not only the indian fans who resort to these type of comments. almost every countries fan do it and do it regularly. its just simple banter and getting ready for the next series. Every Indian fan knows it is likely that Indian team will be beaten most likely, but are showing a bit of bravado. enjoy the comments and have a laugh if you dont like someone comment

  • cloudmess on June 22, 2014, 17:17 GMT

    Although Warne and Ian Chappell are sharp and clear-headed thinkers on the game, they are not above using the press to sledge the opposition, not least the poms. Both are very much aware that an Ashes re-match is due in 12 months - and while I think both Cook and Clarke have their faults as captains, Clarke is tub-thumpingly portrayed as flawless ad nauseum and Cook vice-versa.

  • on June 22, 2014, 15:59 GMT

    @Greatest_Game: Atleast try to understand what others have commented, Except for Ramakrishnan no one had said about an Indian victory, rather every one shares the view that Indian bowlers would help not only cook, but even Jimmie Anderson, to score hundreds. And with ishanth in the team, scoring at 4 rpo wont be an issue for English either.

    Indian's had already lost the battle with their team selection, they already are puzzled after the exit of Zaheer, and bunch of other bowlers who peaked at his time till the 2011WC.... !

  • Greatest_Game on June 22, 2014, 14:47 GMT

    Is this an article about Alistair Cook, or about Indian cricket? The article mentions nothing about India, Indian cricket, India's upcoming tour of Eng …. & yet the comments are full of this subjects. I'm not even Rnglish & I find it unwelcome.

    P.S. All the Indian fans promising Indian victory in England - that is what you promised when England toured India, and we know how that turned out. Beaten at home, out spun by Eng's spinners. Promising now to outpace Eng makes me think that the expression "once bitten, twice shy" should be given some thought!

  • on June 22, 2014, 14:11 GMT

    I sincerely hope that A.C. reads this article. Some wise reflections from MDC and couldn't agree more with his assessment of Warne.

  • on June 22, 2014, 11:34 GMT

    I think India will win the upcoming series if Indian bowlers can bowl to their abilities. Bhuvi, Shami, Varon, Binny can do it. India batting order looks solid compared to England's. Dhawan, Gambhir, VIjay , Pujara, Dhoni, Kohli,Rahane are capable batsman to do that. Dhoni will try hard this time to answer his critics with the performance. Big confusion for Dhoni is choosing the openers. Picking out of two from Dhawan, Gambhir and Vijay is tough one. All the best. Waiting for Indian win.

  • on June 22, 2014, 9:10 GMT

    Don't worry be happy Cook, just don't loose your patience, Indians are coming, and I would be totally disappointed, if you don't score 300, and if your team doesn't score 500 or more every innings. My one plea to you, include some one in the team eleven, who should hit Ishanth Sharma, every time, he has the over to the deepest part of the ground. !

  • xtrafalgarx on June 22, 2014, 9:04 GMT

    Hmm. I'm an Australian fan, but i think the Indian pacers are pretty good. B. Kumar has shown he is an intelligent operator and U. Yadav has pace, Shami has shown good control of swing. As far as Sri Lanka, i don't think it can get much easier for Cook to score runs. If he can't score against them, there is no hope.

  • Bogelking on June 22, 2014, 9:00 GMT

    As observed, many people point to the fact that the Indian Tour of England will give a new lease of life to Cook, which is contrary to my point. You see, I agree that the Indian bowling unit- especially the pace attack- is less ominous compared to that of SL and Pak. But the way that Cook has dealt with the Lankan pacers- most of whom are playing for the first time in this helpful conditions- have been startling. Hence I do not think that why he will prosper against the new Indian attack. Please think of the ability that Bhuvaneshwar Kumar enacts by bringing swing in subcontinental conditions, not to forget the superb performance by Binny the other days against Bangladesh, though everyone can put that down as something coming against a weak team. Seriously, the thrashing that his team had to undergo Down under and the inner problems of the dressing room have confounded him a great, which also took a toll in his form. If he could get over these challenges, Cook can shine. Good Luck Cook

  • Criketanand on June 22, 2014, 8:30 GMT

    Most observation by experts and viewing public are right. With Indian trundlers coming up next for a long 5 match series, Cook will get enough time in every possible way to get back among runs. Slowness of Indian bowlers will give enough time to cook to sort the front foot problem between the ball out of bowlers hand and reaching batsman. Record book will show every batsman in history who has been out of form has on batting against Indian trundlers gets back into form and gets new lease of life for few more years.

  • shankarapandi on June 22, 2014, 6:11 GMT

    He is technically much flawed.. He cant play good fast swinging pitched up deliveries by hanging onto the backfoot.. even if he gets runs against India, it wont be countable.. He will suffer against aus sa nz pak pace attacks..

    he cant be dropped easily after 8000 test runs.. So he can maintain his average by playing India Sri Lanka Bangladesh on both home soil and sub continental pitches..

  • on June 22, 2014, 4:35 GMT

    Alastair Cook dont worry, in the upcoming Indian tour you can find your form as many other players usually does... like the bravos, ponting, etc at times

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  • on June 22, 2014, 4:35 GMT

    Alastair Cook dont worry, in the upcoming Indian tour you can find your form as many other players usually does... like the bravos, ponting, etc at times

  • shankarapandi on June 22, 2014, 6:11 GMT

    He is technically much flawed.. He cant play good fast swinging pitched up deliveries by hanging onto the backfoot.. even if he gets runs against India, it wont be countable.. He will suffer against aus sa nz pak pace attacks..

    he cant be dropped easily after 8000 test runs.. So he can maintain his average by playing India Sri Lanka Bangladesh on both home soil and sub continental pitches..

  • Criketanand on June 22, 2014, 8:30 GMT

    Most observation by experts and viewing public are right. With Indian trundlers coming up next for a long 5 match series, Cook will get enough time in every possible way to get back among runs. Slowness of Indian bowlers will give enough time to cook to sort the front foot problem between the ball out of bowlers hand and reaching batsman. Record book will show every batsman in history who has been out of form has on batting against Indian trundlers gets back into form and gets new lease of life for few more years.

  • Bogelking on June 22, 2014, 9:00 GMT

    As observed, many people point to the fact that the Indian Tour of England will give a new lease of life to Cook, which is contrary to my point. You see, I agree that the Indian bowling unit- especially the pace attack- is less ominous compared to that of SL and Pak. But the way that Cook has dealt with the Lankan pacers- most of whom are playing for the first time in this helpful conditions- have been startling. Hence I do not think that why he will prosper against the new Indian attack. Please think of the ability that Bhuvaneshwar Kumar enacts by bringing swing in subcontinental conditions, not to forget the superb performance by Binny the other days against Bangladesh, though everyone can put that down as something coming against a weak team. Seriously, the thrashing that his team had to undergo Down under and the inner problems of the dressing room have confounded him a great, which also took a toll in his form. If he could get over these challenges, Cook can shine. Good Luck Cook

  • xtrafalgarx on June 22, 2014, 9:04 GMT

    Hmm. I'm an Australian fan, but i think the Indian pacers are pretty good. B. Kumar has shown he is an intelligent operator and U. Yadav has pace, Shami has shown good control of swing. As far as Sri Lanka, i don't think it can get much easier for Cook to score runs. If he can't score against them, there is no hope.

  • on June 22, 2014, 9:10 GMT

    Don't worry be happy Cook, just don't loose your patience, Indians are coming, and I would be totally disappointed, if you don't score 300, and if your team doesn't score 500 or more every innings. My one plea to you, include some one in the team eleven, who should hit Ishanth Sharma, every time, he has the over to the deepest part of the ground. !

  • on June 22, 2014, 11:34 GMT

    I think India will win the upcoming series if Indian bowlers can bowl to their abilities. Bhuvi, Shami, Varon, Binny can do it. India batting order looks solid compared to England's. Dhawan, Gambhir, VIjay , Pujara, Dhoni, Kohli,Rahane are capable batsman to do that. Dhoni will try hard this time to answer his critics with the performance. Big confusion for Dhoni is choosing the openers. Picking out of two from Dhawan, Gambhir and Vijay is tough one. All the best. Waiting for Indian win.

  • on June 22, 2014, 14:11 GMT

    I sincerely hope that A.C. reads this article. Some wise reflections from MDC and couldn't agree more with his assessment of Warne.

  • Greatest_Game on June 22, 2014, 14:47 GMT

    Is this an article about Alistair Cook, or about Indian cricket? The article mentions nothing about India, Indian cricket, India's upcoming tour of Eng …. & yet the comments are full of this subjects. I'm not even Rnglish & I find it unwelcome.

    P.S. All the Indian fans promising Indian victory in England - that is what you promised when England toured India, and we know how that turned out. Beaten at home, out spun by Eng's spinners. Promising now to outpace Eng makes me think that the expression "once bitten, twice shy" should be given some thought!

  • on June 22, 2014, 15:59 GMT

    @Greatest_Game: Atleast try to understand what others have commented, Except for Ramakrishnan no one had said about an Indian victory, rather every one shares the view that Indian bowlers would help not only cook, but even Jimmie Anderson, to score hundreds. And with ishanth in the team, scoring at 4 rpo wont be an issue for English either.

    Indian's had already lost the battle with their team selection, they already are puzzled after the exit of Zaheer, and bunch of other bowlers who peaked at his time till the 2011WC.... !