The dire performance of England’s team specifically on day four of the second Test, was matched by the uninspiring vacuum of captaincy. Cook needs to re-assess his role in the side, and get back to his primary role of scoring runs.
Being reduced to 57/5 after just 26.2 overs whilst chasing 350 ate into every single England fan watching. In anticipation for what could be a painful summer that includes five Tests against India, it was the first sign that the winter was going to continue long into the summer.
Alastair Cook’s captaincy leaves a lot to be desired. He his not a natural tactician, nor is he seemingly attacking. He was happy to sit back and not attack Mathews on day four, over bowling his main seamers so they became ineffective, under bowling Moeen Ali, and generally lacking thrust.
There are three types of captain: those with tactical nous, those with great man-management skills, & those who lead from the front.
— Samuel Honywill (@SDHoneymonster) June 23, 2014
Cook outlined very boldly in the last three years, he is no tactician. George Dobell described Cook as a tactician, as:
‘More mouse than Strauss; more phoney than Dhoni’, on ESPN Cricinfo
That is not flattering.
He is a strong captain arguably when he is batting well, but in the last year or two that has massively declined.
After averaging 84.27 in 2011, his runs in 2012 were at an average 48.03 and then down all the way to 33.92 in 2013 and around 15 this year so far.
Strangely before this Test at Headingley, England had played 23 Tests since South Africa in 2012, winning just seven, losing eight, and drawing eight.
It’s not good enough, and quite frankly, a significant portion of the blame must rest on the captain. England can no longer hide behind this being the new era. Cook has been in the job for a number of years, and has shown only in India, that he is a capable batsman and captain simultaneously. He needs to let go.
We want our old Alastair Cook back please
At Headingley, Cook passed Geoff Boycott for all time English run scorers. He is around 60 runs behind one Kevin Pietersen.
This is a batsman that knows how to bat. But as outlined, his average has been steadily declining under the captaincy.
As his runs have dried up, so too have the teams results.
England must look at this situation and ask a question.
He is a once in a generation batsman, so why are we compromising his clear ability with captaincy, especially if he isn’t that good at captaincy.
The fact is, that when a sub continental side comes to England and teaches the home team how to bowl and captain on their own decks, there needs to be a serious assessment of tactics.
Cook is a nice person I’m sure. He is a sensationally talented player, nobody doubts it. But as a captain, he is about as inspiring as a lump of stale bread, and about as innovative as a plank of wood. Let him bat.
Who could take over then?
In Eoin Morgan, England have both an attacking batsman and an inventive Captain.
Dropped from the Test side because he was unable to translate his ODI and T20 performances into the Test arena; he has come back much more strongly in First Class cricket.
Now at 27 years old, he was told to go back to County cricket and get some form. He did it. Morgan prioritised; skipping the IPL for Middlesex; scoring two centuries in this season already, including an enormous 191. As a captain, he struck a century against his former side, Ireland; in addition to handling a broken and shattered team down in Australia.
He may not be as technically sound as Ian Bell, or as gritty as a Alastair Cook, but his clear determination to place himself back in contention is admirable. His unorthodox technique makes him an appealing offer of variety for a stagnating England team too, although his main uphill task is to get back into the team.
Currently, the top order is jam packed with new talent, and plenty more is awaiting; such as that of James Vince, James Taylor and many others. Morgan’s runs are going to have to be thick and fast, and particularly in limited overs cricket, he needs to assert himself for England as the flair player.
Other candidates could be Ian Bell, who is the natural successor to a deposed Alastair Cook as one of the few remaining senior batsmen. He has captained England under 19s, and Warwickshire before, and does lead from the front in the middle. He was England’s player of the year in 2013, and has now matured into one of the most aesthetically pleasing batsmen in the world.
One final option could be to give it to either Stuart Broad, Matt Prior or Joe Root. Matt Prior used to be a vice captain, but after his form drastically fell away, and he was temporarily dropped. He is a risk as he does not have an assurance of long term selection.
Stuart Broad unsuccessfully captained the T20 side, losing embarrassingly to Holland recently, and not showing anything particularly outstanding as a captain. He has no Test experience captaining, and has suffered numerous injuries lately also.
Joe Root could be a Graeme Smith type selection; young, massive potential, versatile and popular, he could take on the role in a shorter term capacity until a more long term prospect emerges. It may of course be too much responsibility.
What is absolutely clear however is that Cook needs to either improve his tactical awareness as captain, get back into the runs, or quit the captaincy before it’s too late.