The Investec Ashes 2013 August 13, 2013

Results vindicate captain Cook

Winning the Ashes was another impressive marker in Alastair Cook's fledgling captaincy and Andy Flower was keen to ensure he received due credit
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If captaincy is about tactical ingenuity, about surprising opponents with novel field positions and bold declarations, then Alastair Cook is, at this stage of his career, an also-ran.

But if captaincy is more about remaining calm under pressure, if it is about uniting a disparate group of individuals into a team with common goals and shared beliefs, if it instilling a clear purpose and providing consistent messages through example and communication, then Cook is developing into a fine leader. A leader very much in the image of Andrew Strauss, the man he succeeded in the role.

Cook's captaincy has attracted striking criticism in recent times. Shane Warne, who continues to sledge England from behind a microphone and in the pages of newspapers, may not recall but it is worth reflecting on the situation that Cook inherited when he was appointed 12 months ago.

England were a divided, defeated group of individuals. The fall-out from the Kevin Pietersen debacle had exposed cliques within the dressing room and defeats against Pakistan and South Africa had brought their period as the No. 1-ranked team to an abrupt halt. The tour to India loomed menacingly.

Yet, despite a thumping loss in his first game in command, Cook has led England to a series victory in India and retained the Ashes in the minimum number of Tests possible. England are now unbeaten in 12 Tests and came a panic away from winning the Champions Trophy. The team are now working together productively and have the opportunity not just to become the first England side to win four Ashes Tests in a home series, but to move back to No. 2 in the Test rankings. No reasonable judge could have asked for more from Cook.

So it should not have been surprising that Andy Flower, the England team director, used his first press conferences after England won the series against Australia, to praise Cook for his contribution to their success.

Flower is not a fellow to speak carelessly. He is not a man to do anything carelessly. In each press conference, while he arranges the dictaphones in front of him neatly (you get the impression he would like to catalogue them alphabetically in a binder), he ensures he conveys the message he wants and nothing more. And when he spoke to the media on Tuesday, he wanted to ensure Cook received the credit he deserved.

"One of the keys to our success has been the couple of outstanding captains we have had," Andy Flower said as he reflected on England's success in Durham. "A captain in a cricket team is a very important position. They are making constant decisions out in the middle. When they speak in the dressing room they have to be stirring and clear, sometimes showing empathy, sometimes showing real strength or even stubbornness. In Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook I think English cricket has been very lucky to have had, and still have in Cook, two outstanding leaders.

"Keeping calm was certainly important and Cook was excellent in that regard. They also tinkered slightly with their tactics which you would have seen after tea. At 140 for one Australia had played really well, but I thought our guys held their nerve well and tinkered a little. We created pressure and chances followed."

The key moment may have come at tea when Cook, sensing a need to up England's intensity, spoke to the team in the dressing room and coaxed one more effort from the bowlers. Pitching the ball fuller, they bowled with impressive hostility on a sluggish pitch and, after building the pressure, forced Australia to buckle in a spectacular final session.

"I was present in the dressing room at the time, but to be quite frank this is one of those instances where we don't talk about what we said," Flower said. "I won't talk in any detail about it but in those sorts of situations, at 120 for one, those are the instances where you need strong and decisive leadership and Cook showed that.

"He speaks fluently in the dressing room. He has handled the captaincy really well so far. Like all the players he is probably a bit weary after four Test matches but most of the guys will be feeling that way. But there is a nice break now before the fifth Test and he will be absolutely ready."

It is not hard to understand why Flower felt the need to praise Cook. In both the Test series this summer, many pundits have compared the captaincy of Cook unfavourably with that of first Brendon McCullum and then Michael Clarke. Yet England have won five Tests and the opposition have not won any. While you could argue with some justification that Cook simply has the much stronger side at his command, it does raise questions about the criteria being used by his critics. Sometimes it seems they use the word "bad" when they mean "unexciting". They are not the same thing at all.

But not only has Cook attracted criticism, his personal contribution has also been somewhat understated. He is averaging only 27.25 with the bat and has, at times, looked inflexible in the field.

That is not entirely Cook's fault. With a four-man attack to marshal Cook has limited options. Besides, England have something close to a formula and, by sticking to it, know that each member of the team understands their role. By adhering to their plans, with a few minor adjustments, England rarely panic, are rarely confused and, since the tour to India anyway, have rarely been beaten. They have a method they believe in and they pursue it relentlessly.

Their record suggests it is a decent tactic. While there are times England can look bereft in the field - they did for a while on Monday afternoon - instead of searching for new methods, they go back to the old one - bowl 'dry', build pressure and create chances - and attempt to follow it better. It may not excite the pundits, but it works. A boa constrictor can be just as deadly as a lion.

Flower accepts that the England have faults. He accepts that the top order have struggled during the series and that the team remains a work in progress. But he also feels they deserve credit for their resilience and determination.

"Our cricket side is not perfect, perhaps not even a great side," Flower said. "We don't call ourselves great. We don't think we're going to be perfect, we're all going to make mistakes and Australia are going to have some good periods of play of course. They're a good outfit themselves.

"I think it is fair to say that Cook and [Jonathan] Trott have not been at their absolute best, but they can't be at their best all the time. Both sides have shown real skill with the new ball and they have been testing conditions for batsmen so we haven't seen huge scores.

"But it would be more productive to focus on how we have fought ourselves out of those positions and been skilful and tough enough to get back into the game to continually build totals.

"All we're trying to do is win series. We don't put up on our white board 'What do we have to do to become a great team?' We plan how to win series, that's what we do."

"But I must say I quite looking at things like Bell's twentieth hundred and where he comes in the all-time leading batsmen for England. I quite like seeing those types of records because it does give you some sort of context in the history of English cricket.

"We have won the series. We will be presented with another Test match next week and they will be desperate to win it because they are representing their country and competing to win."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY Greatest_Game on | August 14, 2013, 22:57 GMT

    As captains, Cook is not terrible, & Clarke is not brilliant. Both have strengths & weaknesses, & the results of this series neither vindicate Cook, nor indict Clarke.

    Tour stats show the Aus batting is not all bad: they hold positions 2. 3, 5, 7 & 8 in the batting averages. The standout bowler is Ryan Harris - 20 wickets @ 19.25, econ 2.98 & SR 38.7. Swann has take 2 more wickets @ 27, Econ2.96 SR51.1. Siddle & Andersen both have 17 wickets. The teams are close, except for one man - Ian Bell. With the most runs (500,) the highest ave, (71.42 - 23 ahead of Clarke,) 3 centuries & 2 fifties, Bell has singly influenced the outcome of this series.

    The results do not vindicate Captain Cook: they vindicate the under appreciated Bell. Journalists don't find Bell intriguing, & he gets little press. But, the match which England did not win is the only one in which Bell did not score a century. That's more intriguing than Warne's facile comments, or Cook's underwhelming captaincy!

  • POSTED BY ballsintherightareas on | August 14, 2013, 10:30 GMT

    Well said, Mr Dobell.

    What I'm loving most about England's success right now is that they are no longer just following what Australia used to do. The resurgence of English cricket started with adopting their best ideas such as the academy and continuity of team selection, but England is now forging its own path - winning the English way. Let the Germans have their efficiency, let the French have their passion, let the Americans have their positivity. We Brits thrive on objectivity, rationality and analytical thinking. 'Keep calm and carry on' has become the national mantra. It could have been the mantra of any great scientist, and as history attests, the scientific method always triumphs given time. It's no different in sport.

  • POSTED BY 2.14istherunrate on | August 13, 2013, 23:05 GMT

    At the end of the day the end justifies the means. 3-0 and hunting down 4-0 is a very good result. I thought the decision to put on Bresnan to Warner turned out inspirational. Much of what is said here about Cook is not always out in the open-ie keeping a cool head in crises. My own reservations are about field placings and just keeping slips in longer. The bigger picture is obviously favo0rable and collecting a series victory in India is a huge bonus,just as this series is. a very big bonus for both strauss and Cook has been in having a spinner like Swann. He is a massive figure for us.The NZ tour kind of proved that beyond doubt.

  • POSTED BY on | August 13, 2013, 23:03 GMT

    Andy Flower rarely misses a trick. Cricket is a simple game, unfortunately perhaps due to T20 everyone seems to want to make it more exciting, however when things aren't working it may be nice to be innovative but I find going back to basics and doing the simple things is as effective and always works a treat. At times 6 singles in the V or rotating the strike is as effective as switch hitting for 6. If you look at the Australian losses in the last 4 series (excluding Sri Lanka) it is the lack of simple things that have caused their downfall, especially in the batting department. Do the simple things, rotate the strike, hit in the V, build your innings, keep bowling outside the off and then look back and see how far you've come. You, after all, have 5 days to play.

  • POSTED BY ReadThiS on | August 20, 2013, 16:38 GMT

    Cook is a gentleman.. the team's performace is good because they like their Captain!! Its make a difference.

  • POSTED BY harshthakor on | August 17, 2013, 7:06 GMT

    Overall,considering they were literally written off at the start of the series the Australian team has done itself credit.They deserved to win the 3rd test at Manchester and gave England a strong run for their money in the 1st and 4th test.With luck on their side the Aussies may well have been at 2-2 or atleast not more than 2-1 down.Only at Lords did England look on a different street.Neverthless England deserved to win the series being the better team in 3 of the 4 test matches played. Above all this series has been a victory for test cricket on the whole if you remember the twists and turns in the 1st and 4th test matches.The intensity and competitive spirit was remarkable.The tradition of Ashes cricket has been rekindled.

  • POSTED BY harshthakor on | August 17, 2013, 7:05 GMT

    2-1 would have been the fair margin in a hard fought test series.England often failed to deliver the knock out killer punch at crucial junctures and almost let games slip away ,with the 1st test at Trent Bridge being the best example.Infact the English batting middle order failed to capitalize which could have made their side far more worthy winners. The series proved that test cricket is the best form of the game and that Ashes cricket is still the ultimate spectacle.The wickets too were sporting,above everything.I praise the Aussies for coming back with such heart after the debacle at Lords.

  • POSTED BY JG2704 on | August 15, 2013, 7:29 GMT

    @CustomKid on (August 14, 2013, 22:39 GMT) Hello, - My counter is , how did Australia show lack of ticker with the bat in that innings? Yes the scorecard shows a collapse , but to me there was little evidence of rash or lazy shots (maybe evidence of lack of ticker) which led to the wickets It's like as a UK boxing fan. Ricky Hatton is his 2 stoppage defeats before he 1st retired could never have been accused of lack of ticker. He was outclassed vs FM but was still coming forward when stopped and vd MP he knocked clean out. David Haye (on the other hand) could be accused of lack of it vs Klitschko as he was way behind in the fight and never took any risks to turn it around.

  • POSTED BY Patchmaster on | August 15, 2013, 1:20 GMT

    @ RandyOZ - how you'd love Cook in your side..........

  • POSTED BY iceaxe on | August 15, 2013, 0:16 GMT

    Er,... perhaps this is b/c England just have a better team than the others?

    Cook has done nothing to impress me with his captaincy talent.

    McCullum on the other hand, has been a far more improvising. The only difference was his team folds far too easily.

  • POSTED BY Greatest_Game on | August 14, 2013, 22:57 GMT

    As captains, Cook is not terrible, & Clarke is not brilliant. Both have strengths & weaknesses, & the results of this series neither vindicate Cook, nor indict Clarke.

    Tour stats show the Aus batting is not all bad: they hold positions 2. 3, 5, 7 & 8 in the batting averages. The standout bowler is Ryan Harris - 20 wickets @ 19.25, econ 2.98 & SR 38.7. Swann has take 2 more wickets @ 27, Econ2.96 SR51.1. Siddle & Andersen both have 17 wickets. The teams are close, except for one man - Ian Bell. With the most runs (500,) the highest ave, (71.42 - 23 ahead of Clarke,) 3 centuries & 2 fifties, Bell has singly influenced the outcome of this series.

    The results do not vindicate Captain Cook: they vindicate the under appreciated Bell. Journalists don't find Bell intriguing, & he gets little press. But, the match which England did not win is the only one in which Bell did not score a century. That's more intriguing than Warne's facile comments, or Cook's underwhelming captaincy!

  • POSTED BY ballsintherightareas on | August 14, 2013, 10:30 GMT

    Well said, Mr Dobell.

    What I'm loving most about England's success right now is that they are no longer just following what Australia used to do. The resurgence of English cricket started with adopting their best ideas such as the academy and continuity of team selection, but England is now forging its own path - winning the English way. Let the Germans have their efficiency, let the French have their passion, let the Americans have their positivity. We Brits thrive on objectivity, rationality and analytical thinking. 'Keep calm and carry on' has become the national mantra. It could have been the mantra of any great scientist, and as history attests, the scientific method always triumphs given time. It's no different in sport.

  • POSTED BY 2.14istherunrate on | August 13, 2013, 23:05 GMT

    At the end of the day the end justifies the means. 3-0 and hunting down 4-0 is a very good result. I thought the decision to put on Bresnan to Warner turned out inspirational. Much of what is said here about Cook is not always out in the open-ie keeping a cool head in crises. My own reservations are about field placings and just keeping slips in longer. The bigger picture is obviously favo0rable and collecting a series victory in India is a huge bonus,just as this series is. a very big bonus for both strauss and Cook has been in having a spinner like Swann. He is a massive figure for us.The NZ tour kind of proved that beyond doubt.

  • POSTED BY on | August 13, 2013, 23:03 GMT

    Andy Flower rarely misses a trick. Cricket is a simple game, unfortunately perhaps due to T20 everyone seems to want to make it more exciting, however when things aren't working it may be nice to be innovative but I find going back to basics and doing the simple things is as effective and always works a treat. At times 6 singles in the V or rotating the strike is as effective as switch hitting for 6. If you look at the Australian losses in the last 4 series (excluding Sri Lanka) it is the lack of simple things that have caused their downfall, especially in the batting department. Do the simple things, rotate the strike, hit in the V, build your innings, keep bowling outside the off and then look back and see how far you've come. You, after all, have 5 days to play.

  • POSTED BY ReadThiS on | August 20, 2013, 16:38 GMT

    Cook is a gentleman.. the team's performace is good because they like their Captain!! Its make a difference.

  • POSTED BY harshthakor on | August 17, 2013, 7:06 GMT

    Overall,considering they were literally written off at the start of the series the Australian team has done itself credit.They deserved to win the 3rd test at Manchester and gave England a strong run for their money in the 1st and 4th test.With luck on their side the Aussies may well have been at 2-2 or atleast not more than 2-1 down.Only at Lords did England look on a different street.Neverthless England deserved to win the series being the better team in 3 of the 4 test matches played. Above all this series has been a victory for test cricket on the whole if you remember the twists and turns in the 1st and 4th test matches.The intensity and competitive spirit was remarkable.The tradition of Ashes cricket has been rekindled.

  • POSTED BY harshthakor on | August 17, 2013, 7:05 GMT

    2-1 would have been the fair margin in a hard fought test series.England often failed to deliver the knock out killer punch at crucial junctures and almost let games slip away ,with the 1st test at Trent Bridge being the best example.Infact the English batting middle order failed to capitalize which could have made their side far more worthy winners. The series proved that test cricket is the best form of the game and that Ashes cricket is still the ultimate spectacle.The wickets too were sporting,above everything.I praise the Aussies for coming back with such heart after the debacle at Lords.

  • POSTED BY JG2704 on | August 15, 2013, 7:29 GMT

    @CustomKid on (August 14, 2013, 22:39 GMT) Hello, - My counter is , how did Australia show lack of ticker with the bat in that innings? Yes the scorecard shows a collapse , but to me there was little evidence of rash or lazy shots (maybe evidence of lack of ticker) which led to the wickets It's like as a UK boxing fan. Ricky Hatton is his 2 stoppage defeats before he 1st retired could never have been accused of lack of ticker. He was outclassed vs FM but was still coming forward when stopped and vd MP he knocked clean out. David Haye (on the other hand) could be accused of lack of it vs Klitschko as he was way behind in the fight and never took any risks to turn it around.

  • POSTED BY Patchmaster on | August 15, 2013, 1:20 GMT

    @ RandyOZ - how you'd love Cook in your side..........

  • POSTED BY iceaxe on | August 15, 2013, 0:16 GMT

    Er,... perhaps this is b/c England just have a better team than the others?

    Cook has done nothing to impress me with his captaincy talent.

    McCullum on the other hand, has been a far more improvising. The only difference was his team folds far too easily.

  • POSTED BY on | August 14, 2013, 23:26 GMT

    Its been individuals that have won the series rather than brilliant captaincy. He's a wait and see captain. Nothing wrong with that if your team is dominant as England are but get a team that's an equal. different story.

  • POSTED BY HatsforBats on | August 14, 2013, 23:08 GMT

    England continue to be a safety first, overly defensive team. This works well against weak batting lineups unable to tough out quality bowling (like Australia), but against high quality batsmen (like SA) it highlights they are unable to achieve the win through attacking play. Waiting for the other team to lose shouldn't be the order of the day, England are capable of being much better than that. Cook should take neither praise or criticism for how England play, this is Flowers game plan and it would prevail no matter who was captain. The core of this England team has played together for 5 years, the unity of purpose is evident, so of course they are all singing from the same hymn sheet, Cook did not bring this side together. The negativity of this approach is that it's not only boring, but it could also prevent the England players from reaching their full potential. If Eng & Aus swapped captain and coach its hard to imagine that these matches wouldn't have been even shorter.

  • POSTED BY CustomKid on | August 14, 2013, 22:39 GMT

    JG2704 on (August 14, 2013, 17:26 GMT) Good comments JG, you might have misread what I said - 'if Australia showed some ticker and could bat', they've shown absolutely none or better yet have none. The exception to that comment is Chris Rogers who has it in buckets full. Not pretty but puts a high value on his wicket did a stellar job last test.

    I agree the bowling was good from England and there weren't any rash shots other than Smith's attempted hook shot.

  • POSTED BY on | August 14, 2013, 22:36 GMT

    @LeeHallam couldn't agree with you more about Warne. What Warnie doesn't understand is a "Great Captain" & a "Great Tactician" are not the same thing, there's plenty more to being a great captain than just being a tactician. Strategy is only part of the package, there's a lot of other things to manage, team morale, player confidence, trust, positive image etc etc. Clarke might be a innovative tactician but his player management skills are very "Mad Men". First it was getting Andrew Symonds the sack, then Simon Katich, then Watson, Warner and Micky Arthur. Katich was given the boot because he was too old, at least that was the official line. How can anyone then justify bringing back Haddin and Chris Rogers, both same age as Katto when he last played? Cook on the other hand inherited a dis-jointed team after the KP fall out and guess what, they may not have the Lloyd's WI flair but they beat India away, survided NZ away, beat NZ at home, made the CT finals and now beaten Aus

  • POSTED BY JG2704 on | August 14, 2013, 17:26 GMT

    @CustomKid on (August 14, 2013, 7:14 GMT) Agree with most of what you said but re Aus showing ticker with the bat - I disagree. Apart from Smith - who was unlucky when the ball dropped onto the stumps , every Aus batsman was out to good deliveries - most lbw or bowled. I'd say the only player who was out to a totally careless shot was Siddle at the end. Eng (helped by some onfield calls which went their way) earned those wickets with some fine bowling

    @TheBigBooer on (August 14, 2013, 9:24 GMT) So you're agreeing with Flower then?

  • POSTED BY liz1558 on | August 14, 2013, 14:45 GMT

    @jmcilhinney -sure. But no harm in trying. Even if he didn't open with Swann, it was clear that Anderson was bowling like a drain after 7 overs, and he might've bowled then. 2 lefties still settling in, new bouncy ball, well worth a try.

    Either way, it will be a huge surprise if Australia manage to win a single of the remaining 6 Tests. Beating this Australia side won't be a big test of Cook's on-field captaincy skills - his main role has been in healing wounds in the dressing room. I don't think Cook is a bad captain; it just looks like England are treading water rather than going anywhere. Maybe that's Flower's stifling influence. England need to make progress more than simply picking up from where Strauss left off. Aus aren't the team to measure progress by anymore - SA are, and we haven't made any significant strides toward challenging them.

  • POSTED BY LeeHallam on | August 14, 2013, 14:40 GMT

    Shane Warne is simply making a desperate attempt to undermine Alistair Cook and his opinions should been given little value. It is true that Clarke is better in front of a camera, and that he like an eye catching field placing, but Cook is the man who his team would run through a brick wall for. Is the same true of Clarke and the Australian team. England have a strategy to win test matches, it is tried and tested and it usually works, they do not need to swap things round all the time with wacky theories. The weaker team can sometimes get the advantage from pulling a surprise or two, as Vaughan showed in 2005, but when we went to Australia that great side had no gimmicks they were simply relentlessly better than us. Weak teams like today's Australia need a flashy captain.

  • POSTED BY jmcilhinney on | August 14, 2013, 12:47 GMT

    @liz1558 on (August 14, 2013, 10:24 GMT), given that the new ball had been so important previously in this game, it's really no surprise that Cook wanted to give his seamers as much opportunity as possible to take advantage of it. They failed to do so, with only Bresnan looking threatening, but that doesn't mean that it wasn't the best decision to make under the circumstances. Swann may have had an impact but so might the seamers, if Broad had bowled a better length and Anderson had kept his line under control. While it didn't happen that way, most people would have expected Swann to be the one most able to make use of the older ball and the seamers to have their best chance with the new ball. If Broad and Anderson had bowled the Bresnan did early on then Australia may well have been in trouble earlier than they were.

  • POSTED BY JG2704 on | August 14, 2013, 12:37 GMT

    Re KP - It's a shame for the neutrals he won't be at finals day and he'd obviously enhance Surrey's chances with the bat but I also like it when sides stick with the players who did all the work in the group stages to get them to the finals PS lovely picture of Strauss/Cook

  • POSTED BY JG2704 on | August 14, 2013, 12:37 GMT

    I think the comms saying that Clarke is a better onfield / tactical captain and Cook is the better man manager etc have it spot on. Interesting comms re Joe Root from Flower. I'm not one who has lambasted the decision to drop Nick (essentially for JB) and move Joe up the order and it may be a long term move which bears fruit. But I don't see how Flower can say the change has worked so well because Eng are 3-0 up. Eng are 3-0 despite what's happening up front. Aus openers have surprisingly been the more consistent but in Eng's case we've had Bell coming in at 5 playing the form of his life to help resurrect innings whereas Austrailia's upper/middle order have not built of fairly good starts the openers have made. Also I saw the logic in having Root opening to enable our starts to be less pedestrian but Root just seems to have become more pedestrian himself

  • POSTED BY JG2704 on | August 14, 2013, 12:36 GMT

    @Aus2013 on (August 14, 2013, 3:51 GMT) Cook and Strauss are such similar captains , I can't see how you can say Strauss is much better - if better at all. To me both are probably onfield supervisors/enforcers for Flower. Strauss had more of his players in better form in Australia when they won 3-1 so I don't see captaincy as an issue there. Also . let's not forget that in the same year previous to Cook taking over , Strauss's side were whitewashed in UAE , drew in SL and lost at home to SA and Cook took over from Strauss with the textgate issues to resolve and a daunting trip to India. Bearing in mind how he handled the KP reintegration and how he turned around a 1-0 deficit to win a test series in India , I'd say if we compare the last year Strauss was in charge with the year Cook has been in charge I'd say Cook wins hands down

  • POSTED BY JG2704 on | August 14, 2013, 12:36 GMT

    @Int.Curator on (August 14, 2013, 2:51 GMT)

    Re points 1-3 - Isn't it the umpires who are allowing slow over rates? I'm sure most/all captains would get through their overs quicker if on top in a game or slower if they are under the cosh 4 - agree with 5/6 - Hasn't everyone questioned about the umpires not understanding how DRS works? 7/8 - Kind of comes under the same bracket but in his defence it has been working in this series - no? I mean re point 7 - to win one of the 2 games and draw the other if/when not playing for a result is not too bad 9/10 - I'd say while he may have fallen into the position , he has turned around a 1-0 deficit to win a test series in India which is an extremely rare occurance for any side. I'd say as a team and both his individual form in that series - that IS something of note

  • POSTED BY on | August 14, 2013, 12:34 GMT

    It's a great pity that Warne has focussed on Cook's captaincy rather than other issues that should be of more concern to a commentator with as much playing experience as he has. Warne played a lot of winning cricket under Ponting, so he should know that on-field tactical choices and imagination aren't important compared to the advantages of having good players at your disposal to get the team out of a hole when required. Man management is a leader's most important skill. It unifies and brings out the best in players at critical times. Cook is doing well in terms of unification, but I do think a little more positive intent from him in the field would provide the spark to excite and ignite some of the players around him who haven't had a great series so far. Good players have a killer instinct lurking under the surface, they need their blood lust piqued occasionally! An occasional aggressive/unusual field placing can send powerful messages to team mates as much as to batsmen.

  • POSTED BY Min2000 on | August 14, 2013, 11:36 GMT

    I think this Australian side is the worse I've seen in 25-30 years. The team fell apart under Ponting, and now Clarke is left to pick up the pieces.

  • POSTED BY android_user on | August 14, 2013, 11:13 GMT

    Cook has proved again that he is an eligible skipper agsinst any team

  • POSTED BY whatawicket on | August 14, 2013, 10:49 GMT

    not saying that cook is the greatest of captains but hes as good as most playing test cricket. as far as i know he has never captained Essex ( maybe the odd game ) over any extended period. so he will make mistakes and i will take a lucky captain just as much as a good captain any day. the great WIs and Australian sides were not captained by great captains, but with great players inc in your sides, it may give that perception that they were. in the early days of graham smith's reign he was always looking to their coach for advise. so its not unheard of for captains to seek outside help. as to some letters saying Australia are unlucky not to be 3 - 1 up, what nonsense. in any sport cometh the hour cometh the man. this what decides games and has done since time immemorial. during one of the 90s ashes in the uk it was found that England had created more chances than Australia but were not taken. its up to the Aussies to make the most of luck or skill to win close games.

  • POSTED BY Greatest_Game on | August 14, 2013, 10:33 GMT

    @ jmcilhinney responded to @TheBigBoodha commenting that "while England have had some strokes of luck, it's rather hard to take you seriously when that is the ONLY thing you ever mention... over and over again." I unreservedly agree with this statement. It is entirely valid, justified, and fair. When Aus lost to SA is was because of bad lack, said TheBigBoodha. When Aus lost to India it was because of the worst pitch doctoring the cricket world had ever see, and some bad luck, said TheBigBoodha. His Ashes comment continue this pattern.

    Cricket is a game. Loss is as much part of the game as winning. One team's hard work is seen by another as little else but fickle fortune.Cricket is only enjoyed in the moment, and loved for what it is, not what it "could have been." If bitterness and rancour result from the game, it's purpose, and spirit, are lost.

    jmcilhinney - your respectful honesty is much appreciated.

  • POSTED BY liz1558 on | August 14, 2013, 10:24 GMT

    David Lloyd George once likened Lord Kitchener's contributions in Cabinet meetings to a light house: generally dull and then a great flash of light every so often. In the same vein, Warne isn't being unfair to Cook -his captaincy all looks a bit risk free and short on imagination, salvaged by one or two moments of inspiration. Bearing in mind Warner's weakness against spin bowling, and the fact that Australia have a top three of lefties, Vaughan or Hussain might've tried Swann to open the bowling, or at least brought him on before the openers were well set. It would be surprising if Cook didn't think of it, but not surprising that he didn't do it. It would've been a calculated risk rather than a gamble. England under Flower don't like any sort of risks, full stop.

  • POSTED BY android_user on | August 14, 2013, 10:19 GMT

    Results for cook most awaited!

  • POSTED BY on | August 14, 2013, 10:18 GMT

    Hope everything goes well with England!

  • POSTED BY jmcilhinney on | August 14, 2013, 10:03 GMT

    @TheBigBoodha on (August 14, 2013, 9:24 GMT), while England have had some strokes of luck, it's rather hard to take you seriously when that is the ONLY thing you ever mention... over and over again.

  • POSTED BY dabhand on | August 14, 2013, 9:55 GMT

    Andy1993 - and the basis for that assertion is what ? Just your own personal opinion based on no knowledge of what is going on in the team, on the wicket or in fact any basis of fact - 3-0 is the score, it's results which count not posturing.

  • POSTED BY arm_chair_Ed on | August 14, 2013, 9:51 GMT

    Flower comes across as defensive and bristly, but I think we misunderstand him. He is just really careful in his choice of words because he knows that his players are listening, the opposition analysts are listening and the press want 'a story'. I loved Lehmann's press conference clips as a punter, but I'd hate to be one of his players listening. I was surprised that Lehmann included the Aus media in the list of those who deserved better from the team.

  • POSTED BY Viswasam on | August 14, 2013, 9:48 GMT

    Further to MartinC's point - the Cook/Clarke comparison is truly superficial. To put it a little differently, I think perhaps the team defines the captain.

    Allan Border who is judged to have been one of Australia's best captains took on a team that was perhaps a lot worse off than Clarke's present Australian set up. Yet he is credited with turning around the teams fortunes through sheer bloody mindedness. Border was neither conservative nor particularly innovative or attacking. Mark Taylor who succeeded him was a smart captain, but a good deal of his success was that he got to build on the foundations that AB set up before him. Taylor was what the Australian team REQUIRED at that time not another Border. As talent started pouring in to the Australian team, they didn't need a smart leader but a guy who could bring it all together, and they got Steve Waugh.

    England needs a Cook not a Clarke. For the team to succeed they need a Waugh-esque type guy and I think Cook is it.

  • POSTED BY on | August 14, 2013, 9:41 GMT

    Clarke is not a great captain.

    Cook is an exceptional captain.

    Clarke cannot manage men.

    Cook is an outstanding leader of men.

  • POSTED BY TheBigBoodha on | August 14, 2013, 9:24 GMT

    The truth is that cook has had a HUGE dose of good fortune in this series. So many of the decisive points in this series have been in the lap of the gods, not Cook's doing. George Dobell doesn't realise that Cook didn't order the rain in the third test. He didn't tell the umpire to give Bresnan not out LBW on 12 runs on the last day of the 4th test when he should have been given, a result which totally changed the balance of the game. Nor did he create the unbelievably bowler friendly conditions on day 2 when England were bowling. And I do believe that the tiny, tiny edge that Haddin got when Aus were 14 runs short in the first test was not ordained by Cook either. Such a fine line between 3-1 up and 3-1 down. I really do fell for Clarke. He has done a lot right, but everything has gone against him. Cook on the other hand has been indecisive, resorted in defensiveness and time wasting way too often - but been rewarded for it mostly by things beyond his control.

  • POSTED BY liz1558 on | August 14, 2013, 9:16 GMT

    It's hard to see where Cook's leadership has changed anything. The bowlers that won things under Strauss are the same and do it in precisely the same way. Anderson is generally consistent, Broad murcurial, and Swann understated but consistent. England's batting hasn't been awful - they've set Australia ungettable totals in 3 games and won each of them - but, before the UAE tour last year, it looked impregnable. That is the main thing that needs to be rebuilt.

    England's bowling still needs to improve - Broad and Finn should be the future of the England attack for the next five years. JA looks seriously jaded.

  • POSTED BY Ozcricketwriter on | August 14, 2013, 9:00 GMT

    Two close wins, one draw when losing badly, and one easy win. The easy win any captain could do but the other three depend on the captain. With a worse captain, England could be looking down the barrel of a 1-3 deficit but instead they are 3-0 up and looking pretty. That's the difference.

  • POSTED BY MartinC on | August 14, 2013, 8:45 GMT

    The Cook/Clarke comparison is interesting superficially - the contention being Cook is conservative and defensive and Clarke is innovative and attacking. That's how it looks on the field as well.

    However if you have a weaker team you HAVE to take more risks and try different strategies, when you have the better team its sensible to stick to the basics and allow the superior depth of talent do its job. That's been the England method and it works against every team expect SA who can match and surpass England in depth of talent.

    England's results speak for themselves and their method but we will have to think outside the box more when we play SA again.

  • POSTED BY on | August 14, 2013, 8:44 GMT

    he is a good captain of a very good eng team

  • POSTED BY on | August 14, 2013, 8:16 GMT

    I have much respect for Cook. He has had a lean patch in this series but if I was asked who was my NUMBER 1 pick fora test batting opener in the world I just consider him the number 1 best opening batsmen in the world. I would probably raid the south african team for most of the rest of my top order batsmen with Michael clarke probably making an appearance. I actually don't feel any of the subcontinent test players right now could be considered definites in a top five TEST only 11. I would still be tempted with a sri lankan or indian batsmen/wicketkeeper. But Cook at 28 has years ahead of him and I believe destined to rewrite the english cricket record books

  • POSTED BY Charlie101 on | August 14, 2013, 8:05 GMT

    It is interesting to compare Cook and Clarke as captains - whilst Cook has a better set of individuals to marshall , there is no doubt they are a closer unit working hard for a common goal and that seems to be Flower / Cook's great strengh. Clark is a great tactition but a hopeless man manager hence he was removed from team selection and there are problems like the Warner / Watson situation. We had the same problems last year but Andy Flower / management moved quickly and decisively to sort the KP situation. Clark would benefit from help from above plus Watson's form and injury may decide his test future if another player steps up and therefore the team may become a closer unit. If Australia lose 4 nil will Warne be calling for Clark's head as captain ?? Australia are ruthless when it comes to failure and I think Warne will be outspoken as usual in calling for Clarke's head.

  • POSTED BY on | August 14, 2013, 7:58 GMT

    Cook has always been a successful batsman and captain:) I think its is not a right way to judge a cricketer by watching his performance in 1 or 2 matches

  • POSTED BY willsrustynuts on | August 14, 2013, 7:55 GMT

    Shane Warne is rapidly losing any credibility as a pundit. Anyone that judges Clarke a better captain than Cook is simply not looking at the facts in a dispassionate way.

  • POSTED BY pulkit10 on | August 14, 2013, 7:39 GMT

    Second one. Talking of great captains though - he'd do well to take a few lessons from Graeme Smith. He's a lot like Cook in many regards. He too, had to re-establish order in the dressing room and he also had to learn how to be more tactically and strategically aware (resulting in an uncanny aggressiveness you see in SA these days). More importantly though, Smith, just like Cook, is determined, honest and puts in a lot of hard work.

  • POSTED BY pulkit10 on | August 14, 2013, 7:36 GMT

    Judging purely by results, he has been an excellent captain. However, that said, he is far from a great captain. The results belie the fact that he is still a work in progress and there is obviously nothing wrong with that - he has been at the job for two series and is doing well.

    He's a brilliant player, works hard and leads from the front. In many ways then, he emulates his predecessor, Andrew Strauss. He wasn't picked to be captain because he was natural at it, it is just he is an honest and hard working guy and the most stable character in the English dressing room.

    Compared to Clarke, however, he is a little behind. Clarke has a strong sense of tactical and strategic awareness. He is hardworking too but he backs it up by taking risks. The results obviously aren't great but how can you blame him when the team forgets to put bat to ball? He can only do so much through field placements. Cook will develop this sense too, maybe then this article will have some merit?

  • POSTED BY on | August 14, 2013, 7:33 GMT

    Ok... He is a good captain & good batsman too, but Australia lost the Ashes, England didn't win it. So like the other England captains before him, lets wait for the England-Captain-Terminator... Graeme Smith.

  • POSTED BY Tom_Bowler on | August 14, 2013, 7:27 GMT

    The Australian media are contrasting their perception of Cook as stolid with their perception of Clarke as dashing. I think this is largely because they have very little else positive to take out of this tour, their team has been soundly beaten by an England side operating at about 75% of its capacity so they are going large on their subjective opinions of the captains, more than a touch pathetic.

    Cook's captaincy record is excellent, his team seems happy, his relationship with Flower is strong and he has time to develop. He'll do for me.

  • POSTED BY CustomKid on | August 14, 2013, 7:14 GMT

    Here we go again the 'imagine if England played to their potential?' comments. They haven't because Australia have some darn fine bowlers in their side. They haven't been allowed to play to their potential. The only difference in this test series that has possibly saved England is Bell. Without his performances England may have lost the series or could be going in to the Oval at 1 or 2 all. If Australia could remotely show some ticker with the bat they'd be all over England but they're simply hopeless. I don't think cook is much of a risk taker or tactically all that smart but one thing he does very well is marshal the troops exceptionally well. They're a tight unit and they know their roles and have a common goal. That is a big tick in his favour. Clarke is a risk taker, tactically much more astute but as a people manager I don't think many respect him. Which one would you take? A team with a common goal or a team of individuals? The aussies are driving me insane.

  • POSTED BY BHAGWAN-XI on | August 14, 2013, 6:48 GMT

    As a indain i am very much fan of indain team and his captain. But After the tour of england in india, I am very much fan of cook and his batting and I have always thought that he will best leader for his team. Because where all teams played in india have no chance to played against spin, but cook had shown that he have a team where his spinner can better than indian spinner and his team can played better against the spin bowling in india. And when you doing well some thing are happen in fever of you. Third Test almost Australia can win on 5th day but luck in fever of cook and rain stop play. So I thing cook should be the next captain after dhoni who can make some outstanding record. His looking like very cool and calm, when aus was 140 for 1 and with 2 to 3 hours they have lost test and the series. And I have very much sure that in Australia his team retain the ashes as well too. Good Luck captain cool COOK.

  • POSTED BY andy1993 on | August 14, 2013, 6:33 GMT

    Cook's captaincy has allowed Australia to appear quite competitive through most of this Ashes series, despite possessing a vastly inferior line up. With a more tactically aware, aggressive captain, Australia would not have passed 150 for the duration of the series. In fact, it could easily be said that Cook's negative, unimaginative captaincy is England's greatest weakness.

  • POSTED BY on | August 14, 2013, 6:31 GMT

    Id take Cook over Clarke in Australian side any day of the week.

  • POSTED BY jmcilhinney on | August 14, 2013, 6:15 GMT

    cont... It would be foolish not to play to your strengths and England certainly believe that they're playing to theirs. I guess it just feels sometimes that England are about to walk off a cliff but they refuse to turn left or right because walking forwards has worked for them in the past. They seem a bit intractable at times and that is probably the main issue that a lot of people have with the England approach and Cook's captaincy as an extension of that. Mind you, how long did it take Clarke to place a third man for Ian Bell? Is that not intractable too? The result at Durham is an example of what you can achieve if you stick to your guns. That said, it might have been nice if it didn't require a tea break for Cook and Broad to realise what they'd been doing wrong.

  • POSTED BY brittop on | August 14, 2013, 6:09 GMT

    Think Cook gets criticised because he doesn't do "flash". Clarke is perceived to be better because he'll do something unusual occasionally (like declare his 1st innings on around 220-9, but lose the game anyway). My view is that Cook can create a team environment where someone will always step up and do something to win the game even if not everyone is firing. Clarke's flash stuff is cover for the fact that he can't get his team to do the basics correctly, like not collapse from 109-0 to 224 all out.

  • POSTED BY jmcilhinney on | August 14, 2013, 6:08 GMT

    I have been critical of Cook's captaincy at times but then you can be critical of any player at times because noone gets it right all the time. Some people do go a bit over the top though. I didn't see it but apparently Warne was critical of Cook bringing Bresnan on when he did, but I'm not sure why exactly that would be. Before tea, Broad and Anderson both had looked innocuous before tea while Bresnan had looked continually dangerous. As it turned out, it was exactly the right move and, if Clarke had been the one to make the change, it would no doubt have been hailed as a master-stroke. I'm not sure what Warne had to say after Bresnan dismissed Warner but I hope it was complimentary to Cook. Cook can be a bit too defensive, e.g. Phil Hughes edging through vacant 2nd slip during that last wicket partnership with Agar, but people need to realise that the more defensive approach has worked and is working for England. tbc...

  • POSTED BY Jaggadaaku on | August 14, 2013, 5:35 GMT

    Now anyone would say Cook is a strong captain. Anyone dare to say that after ENG suffers the same fate as AUS is suffering? I don't think so.

  • POSTED BY Hawk_Pk on | August 14, 2013, 5:28 GMT

    Captain Cook has rediscovered Australia..

  • POSTED BY ReverseSweepIndia on | August 14, 2013, 4:33 GMT

    in all 4 tests highlighting Aus frailties, umpiring errors and DRS issues, this Eng team have not got that respect which they deserve. I have see lot of mud thrown at them, most of it from my fellow Indians, reason could be more of grudge, they mowed as home & away but the fact is they won there fair & square. Here too if Aus have failed to perform its not Eng's fault. Moreover, they ha a man for every occasion (Anderson, Root, Peterson and Broad and small matter of pint sized Bell who join every party). They are sure not great yet, but 2nd best team at the moment though ranking shows us there. And if they now go #2 in ranking thats pretty fair reflection. And while I talked of respect earlier, its not demanded, its commanded and English have started to command it.

  • POSTED BY heathrf1974 on | August 14, 2013, 4:07 GMT

    He is a good captain, just some of the slowdown tactics used sometimes should be looked at.

  • POSTED BY Aus2013 on | August 14, 2013, 3:51 GMT

    I dont agree that cook is a great captain...Full credit to Strauss and not to cook..When Strauss was captaining the Ashes series..Aus were full packed with all the pretty good intnl exprnz plyrs with master legendary Ricky ponting..I am afraid that even the Mino team can beat this fragile Aus weekn line ups...Im sure that Eng will wrap up the Ashes series with white wash 4-0...unless and untill the brainless Aus team, coach and the management throw out Khwaja,Smith, Bird and Watto from the squad..thy got to play the test match as a test match rather thn thrwng out thr wkts chply like an ODI...cook won the series coz of only one consistent batmn Bell...Eng stick to only one plans agnst repeated failure inconstnt btsmn Watto..bowl the ball strgtly..He will walk across the stumps and throw his wkt to the bwlrs @ any time..Is the Aus team and coach are brainless to get rid off Bell..

  • POSTED BY Int.Curator on | August 14, 2013, 2:51 GMT

    Imagine Cooks captaincy with the Australian team playing personal or MC with the english team playing personal. Cook is weak to average. 1) He allows slow over rates. 2) He allows S Broad slow sand shoe tactical delays. 3) He has a 12th man fielding more often than not. 4) He is indecisive and makes decision on census. 5) He does not understand the DRS rule and 6) He questions umpires on his lack of understanding the rules. 7) 2 of the 4 matches he played negative cricket (not playing for a result) 8) He is inept at playing entertaining cricket. 9) He has does nothing of great note????? 10)He has fallen into the position of captain the same way he captains the english team to fall over the line. Will be remember for weakness and nothing more.

  • POSTED BY naveen1122 on | August 14, 2013, 1:56 GMT

    Lateral thinking has made the captains great, Cook is the latest example with real evidence to prove that. Being a SL fan, I wish Mathews would deflate his head and work towards the success as Cook is doing for England.

  • POSTED BY landl47 on | August 14, 2013, 0:49 GMT

    I've always thought that Shane Warne would have been a good short-format captain but a disaster in tests. He's far too easily bored and would do stupid things (like declare way too early) just to keep himself amused. He's also a divisive figure, with some players being favorites and others that he doesn't get on with. Over 5 days those differences are felt and cracks begin to show.

    Cook is young for a test captain (though not as young as Graeme Smith- how he has held it together all these years I'll never know) and it takes time to develop his own style and what works best for him as a leader. He's understandably conservative at present, but the main thing is he has the respect of the team. They play hard for him.

    With a record of W. 9, D. 5, L. 1, he's not doing an awful lot wrong.

  • POSTED BY on | August 14, 2013, 0:23 GMT

    England won without playing at their best. If they were then Australia would lose by an innings. They know how to get out of bad moments. They're always in it until they win it. Well done England. Australia could've won the 1st and 4th tests but never make the most of their moments, they just throw away their game with bad shot selection or was it good bowling by England. England also have Bell to thank for their batting as well as centuries from Pietersen and Root. Australia can't rely on Clarke, whenever he scores runs, other score runs with him. Whenever he gets out the team goes down with him.

  • POSTED BY Not_Another_Keybord_Expert on | August 13, 2013, 23:57 GMT

    Cook is a horrible captain, Andy flower described him as strong, what a joke Cook is a passenger in most tests while fielding,he dosnt have the right mindset to be a good captain.

  • POSTED BY cloudmess on | August 13, 2013, 23:36 GMT

    Good, sensible, straight-talking from Andy Flower. Also love that photo of Strauss and Cook:)

  • POSTED BY on | August 13, 2013, 22:23 GMT

    Agree with every word Flower says. England have taken a lot of criticism, but what exactly do people expect from them? Perfection? Everyone in form and no areas to work on? If that was the case then the achievement would still be belittled on the basis of it being too easy against a weak opponent. Frankly, I think England have done very well this summer, and three nil does not flatter them. English cricket fans should be proud of their team.

  • POSTED BY 2MikeGattings on | August 13, 2013, 22:12 GMT

    Fair comment on Warne and his media role. England have a near equivalent in Michael Vaughan.

  • POSTED BY Lmaotsetung on | August 13, 2013, 21:56 GMT

    Well said Andy...all the detractors can go back to their flashy captains, flashy shots, 100mph fast bowlers and at the end of the day all the flashiness will end up on a highlight reel somewhere on youtube while the steady and consistent performer will end up in the hall of fame when all is said and done.

  • POSTED BY Prendleton on | August 13, 2013, 21:49 GMT

    Good point about Shane Warne criticising Cook. I noticed that Warney criticised Cook when Cook brought on Bresnan yesterday, saying Cook's captaincy was strange.. and then what happened..! Warney is great but he's sounding a little bit embittered in his criticisms of Cook and England. It must be frustrating being an Aussie at the moment.

  • POSTED BY TheDoctor394 on | August 13, 2013, 21:47 GMT

    Very well said, Messers Flower and Dobell. A lot of common sense here.

  • POSTED BY TheDoctor394 on | August 13, 2013, 21:47 GMT

    Very well said, Messers Flower and Dobell. A lot of common sense here.

  • POSTED BY Prendleton on | August 13, 2013, 21:49 GMT

    Good point about Shane Warne criticising Cook. I noticed that Warney criticised Cook when Cook brought on Bresnan yesterday, saying Cook's captaincy was strange.. and then what happened..! Warney is great but he's sounding a little bit embittered in his criticisms of Cook and England. It must be frustrating being an Aussie at the moment.

  • POSTED BY Lmaotsetung on | August 13, 2013, 21:56 GMT

    Well said Andy...all the detractors can go back to their flashy captains, flashy shots, 100mph fast bowlers and at the end of the day all the flashiness will end up on a highlight reel somewhere on youtube while the steady and consistent performer will end up in the hall of fame when all is said and done.

  • POSTED BY 2MikeGattings on | August 13, 2013, 22:12 GMT

    Fair comment on Warne and his media role. England have a near equivalent in Michael Vaughan.

  • POSTED BY on | August 13, 2013, 22:23 GMT

    Agree with every word Flower says. England have taken a lot of criticism, but what exactly do people expect from them? Perfection? Everyone in form and no areas to work on? If that was the case then the achievement would still be belittled on the basis of it being too easy against a weak opponent. Frankly, I think England have done very well this summer, and three nil does not flatter them. English cricket fans should be proud of their team.

  • POSTED BY cloudmess on | August 13, 2013, 23:36 GMT

    Good, sensible, straight-talking from Andy Flower. Also love that photo of Strauss and Cook:)

  • POSTED BY Not_Another_Keybord_Expert on | August 13, 2013, 23:57 GMT

    Cook is a horrible captain, Andy flower described him as strong, what a joke Cook is a passenger in most tests while fielding,he dosnt have the right mindset to be a good captain.

  • POSTED BY on | August 14, 2013, 0:23 GMT

    England won without playing at their best. If they were then Australia would lose by an innings. They know how to get out of bad moments. They're always in it until they win it. Well done England. Australia could've won the 1st and 4th tests but never make the most of their moments, they just throw away their game with bad shot selection or was it good bowling by England. England also have Bell to thank for their batting as well as centuries from Pietersen and Root. Australia can't rely on Clarke, whenever he scores runs, other score runs with him. Whenever he gets out the team goes down with him.

  • POSTED BY landl47 on | August 14, 2013, 0:49 GMT

    I've always thought that Shane Warne would have been a good short-format captain but a disaster in tests. He's far too easily bored and would do stupid things (like declare way too early) just to keep himself amused. He's also a divisive figure, with some players being favorites and others that he doesn't get on with. Over 5 days those differences are felt and cracks begin to show.

    Cook is young for a test captain (though not as young as Graeme Smith- how he has held it together all these years I'll never know) and it takes time to develop his own style and what works best for him as a leader. He's understandably conservative at present, but the main thing is he has the respect of the team. They play hard for him.

    With a record of W. 9, D. 5, L. 1, he's not doing an awful lot wrong.

  • POSTED BY naveen1122 on | August 14, 2013, 1:56 GMT

    Lateral thinking has made the captains great, Cook is the latest example with real evidence to prove that. Being a SL fan, I wish Mathews would deflate his head and work towards the success as Cook is doing for England.