Cook faces up to senior players' failure
Alastair Cook admitted to the "lowest moment" of his career as England slumped to Ashes defeat in Perth and said several members of his side would be "playing for their future" in the remaining two games of the series.
The England captain said conceding a 3-0 lead in the five-match series "hurts like hell" and described the dressing room as "a tough place to be". It is Cook's first series loss as captain and England's first Ashes loss in four series stretching back to 2006-07.
But while accepting that "inquests" into the defeat were inevitable, Cook appealed for calm before conclusions are made about the reasons for the loss. In particular, Cook was keen to defend Andy Flower and refuted any suggestion that the England coach should step down.
"I want him to carry on," Cook said. "He's an outstanding coach and an outstanding person. He's a great person to have around, especially for me, as a captain and the advice he gives me. It's not down to him why we've lost this. It's down to the fact we haven't had enough players in form."
Cook, who has averaged just 26.93 in his last eight Tests against Australia, also reasserted his determination to continue as captain, though he accepted he needed to reflect on some of his tactics and that there would be "people questioning my place".
"There's always going to be theories," he said. "There's always going to be inquests when you lose. The simple fact of the matter is we haven't had enough players in form with either bat or ball. People in the dressing room know that.
"It's a tough place my batting. I'm putting the work in but not quite getting the results. You can see the feet aren't always going in the right place. I've had a couple of very good balls as well, which doesn't help. And when I have got in at Brisbane and here, I haven't gone on to make a bigger score.
"But I don't think the captaincy is affecting my batting. There's always a strain, but the challenge of being a captain is trying to deal with it. I can honestly say that when I go out there as a batter, I'm thinking as a batter. My mind is not thinking about what's going on elsewhere.
"Of course, if other people who make the decisions don't think that way, we have to go by that decision. When you lose the Ashes in the way we've lost, there will always be people questioning my place and all that kind of stuff. That's the first place you always look when you lose. As a captain, the buck stops with you. I have to look at am I managing the players right? Am I doing the right things out in the middle? We have to have some honest chats."
Cook also defended his players, despite admitting that several senior figures had endured undistinguished series and that many would be playing for their futures in the remaining two games of the series.
"The first thing you do when you lose is look at the hunger and the desire. I can honestly say in our dressing room, both are there. We just haven't had the skills to match it. Sport is not about trying at all; it's about delivering. We know we tried as hard as we could and we haven't delivered.
"It's not just Anderson and Swann who haven't performed. A lot of us senior batters haven't performed as well. It's incredibly frustrating - I know as a batter when you're not delivering what you're capable of - there's not a worse place to be as a player.
"I'll never feel let down by any of the lads that go out there and put on an England shirt. I look into their eyes and I see what they do in training. The way they go about their business and the effort, you don't see all that.
"I'm never going to be embarrassed. We haven't been good enough, that's the reason we lost. I'll never be embarrassed for the way we go about things and the effort the lads put in. It's a hard thing to say when you've been beaten and you deserve to get beaten. It's never good to admit it, but we have.
"When you lose, or even when you win, there's so many good players around in England wanting to be in the 11 spots we presently hold. So we are always playing for our future. There's always a balancing act with sides when you lose with trying to introduce new players. Are they better than the players you have?"
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo