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Former Australia captain, now a cricket commentator and columnist

Indecisive Cook hurting England

The team's constant failure to convert good positions has led to players losing confidence in their captain

Ian Chappell

June 29, 2014

Comments: 76 | Text size: A | A

Alastair Cook's captaincy: from bad in Australia to worse in England © PA Photos

Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni should send his Sri Lankan counterpart Angelo Mathews a crate of his favourite tipple immediately. And as a further gesture of gratitude, the BCCI, with the newfound wealth they'll inherit following the recent ICC "big three" deal, should offer to pay off all the Sri Lankan board's debt. That's how big a favour the Sri Lankans have done India on the eve of their Test series in England.

Not only did Sri Lanka beat England in their recently completed series, they prised open serious cracks in the host's "brave new world". The biggest of those fissures is right at the top: Alastair Cook's captaincy has gone from bad in Australia to worse in England.

Part of a selector's job is to recognise players who might be buoyed by the extra responsibility of leadership and those who are likely to be burdened by it. I'd put Cook in the second category - and his lean recent batting returns seem to confirm this theory. As such, he should never have been awarded the captaincy.

However, there weren't many other candidates at the time of Andrew Strauss' retirement (unless you count Kevin Pietersen and the England hierarchy obviously didn't), so Cook was anointed by default.

As a captain you have to admit to mistakes in judgement and quickly set about correcting them. By not admitting to flaws and addressing them quickly so he's not constantly being dismissed in the same manner, a player isn't going far. It's the same for selectors. If you make a mistake, own up to it and then correct it quickly so it doesn't become like a rolling stone gathering more and more moss.

I first harboured doubts about Cook's captaincy when the look of fear appeared in his eyes as Australia closed in on an unlikely victory at Trent Bridge in 2013. He got lucky on that occasion as Jimmy Anderson rose to the challenge and extracted him from the mire. However, his luck ran out in Australia, and the loss at Headingley this week displayed all the hallmarks of England's problems during the Ashes series Down Under.

 
 
A captain can learn a lot from his mistakes but other aspects of the job are inherent
 

Cook is not an instinctive captain and he's also ultra-conservative. I'd say the same about Strauss, except he had some qualities Cook doesn't possess. He had "presence" and he was decisive in his moves. He also led a side that was playing confidently and had all its stars at the height of their powers rather than on the wane. Nevertheless, Cook's indecisiveness - which leads to interminable between-overs conferences with experienced players - has a deflating effect on the team.

In nearly every Test in Australia, England forged a winning position with the ball but couldn't finish the job by clinching victory. The same thing happened at Headingley. The constant failure to convert a good position leads to players losing confidence in a captain. It also prompts rudderless performances like England produced during the match-turning partnership between Mathews and Rangana Herath.

A captain can learn a lot from his mistakes but other aspects of the job are inherent; unfortunately for Cook and England, how to correct his main deficiencies isn't teachable.

The India coach Duncan Fletcher supported Cook's retention and in doing so invoked the woes of Australian captain Mark Taylor in 1997. That's a poor comparison.

Taylor was a fine, attacking and instinctive captain before he hit his bad patch with the bat. Importantly, Taylor's captaincy remained highly efficient even when his bat failed him. Anyway, Taylor wasn't out of form in 1997, according to former Australia batsman Doug Walters; he was "batting too long".

This was Walters' summation of the problem when asked: "Think back to Greg Chappell when he was out of form," said Doug with a straight face, "he made ducks. Taylor keeps scoring 11, 13, 17. He's batting too long and everyone can see he's struggling."

Walters' twisted logic probably applies to Cook's current batting slump. And it's no surprise Fletcher pushed for Cook's retention. It's a smart ploy - any opponent would prefer to face a rudderless England piloted by a lifeless leader.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator for Channel 9, and a columnist

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Posted by shijin1429 on (July 3, 2014, 18:32 GMT)

Make bell as test captain and morgan as oneday captain,and cal bak kp,put cook as atest batsmen

my team oneday : Bell,Hales,Pieterson,Root,Morgan,Bopara,Butler,Broad,Onions,Tredwell,Anderson Test: Cook,Moinali,Kp,Bell,Root,Balance,Butler,Broad,Jordan,Anderson,Briggs

Posted by eggyroe on (July 3, 2014, 17:49 GMT)

@Cliff Chapman, with regard to your comment about Winning at all costs is wrong. When I was taught the game over 60 years ago by an ex County Player it was ingrained in us that First was First and second took part.Nobody remembers who came second only the winners.If we are to embark down the path of that there are no winners or losers in any sport then we should all pack up playing competitive sport.Because it appears to be politically correct that children should never know the meaning of defeat,and if you have never felt the disappointment of defeat then the urge to win is an unknown feeling irrespective of age.

Posted by   on (July 3, 2014, 11:19 GMT)

Well..SL has the bragging rights at the moment since they beat India at Asia Cup, WT20 and they beat ENG at their home soil. BTW..who cares about what happened in the past..not to mention SL has chased around India in SJ and Kalu's times. Cricket is as good as the last game you played..If India need to brag again defeat ENG in ENG in Tests (or AUS or at least NZ or any other top 7 team for that matter), and earn the bragging rights. Until then Indian team lacks the talent for Tests.

Posted by ITJOBSUCKS on (July 3, 2014, 7:02 GMT)

@Kasun Maduranga Check the performance of Ind, SL & Pak in the last decade during 2000 - 2011, you will find that Ind has won more than 25% of their matches whereas Sl have won less than 5% of their matches...lol

Posted by ITJOBSUCKS on (July 3, 2014, 6:51 GMT)

@Kasun Maduranga SL definitely doesn't need fan like you...lol If SL is competitive team, why do they keep losing in AUS(last time 3-0), SA, Ind all the time ??? Ind lost the series in Aus & Eng as they were carrying aging players....as i stated earlier, Ind had performed far far better than SL esp outside SC(check statsguru)...How can you say Indian top order is not good when Pujara, Kohli, Dhawan performed exceptionally well in SA & NZ(check statsguru)...in fact Kohli has got 3 100's outside SC(would've been 4 had he not got out on 98) compared to sanga's 6 who has been playing for ages now...lol As everyone(commentators, players, fans) has been saying that pitches were really flat in Eng this time around, so SL were lucky to win the series!!!

Posted by ITJOBSUCKS on (July 3, 2014, 6:47 GMT)

@Kasun Maduranga SL definitely doesn't need fans like you...LOL If SL is competitive team, why do they keep losing in AUS(last time 3-0), SA, Ind all the time ??? Ind lost the series in Aus & Eng as they were carrying aging players....as i stated earlier, Ind had performed far far better than SL esp outside SC(check statsguru)...How can you say Indian top order is not good when Pujara, Kohli, Dhawan performed exceptionally well in SA & NZ(check statsguru)...in fact Kohli has got 3 100's outside SC(would've been 4 had he not got out on 98) compared to sanga's 6 who has been playing for ages now...LOL As everyone(commentators, players, fans) has been saying that pitches were really flat in Eng this time around, so SL were lucky to win the series!!!

Posted by ITJOBSUCKS on (July 3, 2014, 6:45 GMT)

@Kasun Maduranga SL definitely doesn't need fans like you...LOL If SL is competitive team, why do they keep losing in AUS(last time 3-0), SA, Ind all the time ??? Ind lost the series in Aus & Eng as they were carrying aging players....as i stated earlier, Ind had performed far far better than SL esp outside SC(check statsguru)...How can you say Indian top order is not good when Pujara, Kohli, Dhawan performed exceptionally well in SA & NZ(check statsguru)...in fact Kohli has got 3 100's outside SC(would've been 4 had he not got out on 98) compared to sanga's 6 who has been playing for ages now...LOL

Posted by Greatest_Game on (July 3, 2014, 0:30 GMT)

Cricinfo readers are, if anything, consistent. They are adamantly for one or the other.

@ Pradeep Patel "... who do England have that can replace him ? (Kevin Pietersen?)

@ Calvin Govender "if not captain cook then who?" (Kevin Pietersen?)

@ DrJez "I would like to see the Cook critics name an alternative." (Kevin Pietersen?)

@ Shrikanth Ranganadham "if not Cook who else can captain England now."(Kevin Pietersen?)

Now if you think it is only me that think this way, think again:

@ PFEL "Just get it over with and name Pietersen captain."

@Tornado1 " they don't have any captain material in their team, other than Pietersen..."

@ bored_iam "Pietersen … were it not for Moores in charge."

Fire Moores & hire Pietersen. If that fails, blame Pietersen. He is blamed for everything else anyway! Cook has a wart: blame Pietertsen. Bell has hiccups: blame Pietertsen. Broad doesn't walk: blame Pietersen. Global warming: blame Pietersen. Vladimir Putin: blame Pietersen. World War II … etc

Posted by   on (July 2, 2014, 23:40 GMT)

@ITJOBSUCKS: lol, Definitely India need more blindly loyal and traditional fans like you to pull through these hard times. You are an endangered species even among modern Indian fans who "heckled" Ishanth Sharma during the tour match. As Dyland Don Paul said, India's overall record is still less than 12.5 % against the top 8 teams, which is same as SL. And SL is the only SC team to win a series in all three formats in England. True, India is better off in India. But thats not competitive cricket for me. But its not about comparing India to SL. India should do far better given the ammount of money they spend on cricket. And the truth is your top order lacks Test quality and Dhoni is not a tactical Test captain. India even lost last home test series against England. The new SL is far better under foreign conditions than India in my eyes. Lets hope Indian team prove me wrong this time around. It's been too long since they displayed the quality they are boasting about. Good Luck mate!!

Posted by   on (July 2, 2014, 17:27 GMT)

Cook may well actually prevent England from edging this series through his own tired and negative tactics. On flat pitches with little movement England will just coast and not try and make things happen. Cook's many critics have been severe but essentially they are spot-on. He needs to step down and start scoring big hundreds for England.

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Ian ChappellClose
Ian Chappell Widely regarded as the best Australian captain of the last 50 years, Ian Chappell moulded a team in his image: tough, positive, and fearless. Even though Chappell sometimes risked defeat playing for a win, Australia did not lose a Test series under him between 1971 and 1975. He was an aggressive batsman himself, always ready to hook a bouncer and unafraid to use his feet against the spinners. In 1977 he played a lead role in the defection of a number of Australian players to Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket, which did not endear him to the administrators, who he regarded with contempt in any case. After retirement, he made an easy switch to television, where he has come to be known as a trenchant and fiercely independent voice.
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