The Curious Case of the Cook Captaincy Kerfuffle

Crazy World Of Ally Cook 2
Feeling the heat? Or is it all cool?

It is indeed a tough task following the last two pieces by The Leg Glance. They were superbly written, cogently argued and received with the responses they deserved. So it’s a bit after the Lord Mayor’s Show, but let me try, and the subject is Alastair Cook. Isn’t that so frequently the case?

England are losing the test series 3-0, but it is a very difficult one to assess from the visitors’ standpoint (well it is in my eyes). England have missed opportunities, but if we are talking about catches in such a way, as being pivotal to outcomes in the absence of something else, we should throw away all those 2005 DVDs and just change the record on who held the Ashes that year after those key drops on Day 5 at The Oval.

You need to create chances to take them, and the team that wistfully looks back on isolated opportunities is usually one deluding itself. In referring to Adil Rashid’s dropped caught and bowled, a tough chance, as a key point of the match, we are probably less inclined to focus on Keaton Jennings being fortunate not to bag a pair on debut and we’d be saying how out of his depth he looked. On such small margins are careers forged.

Each of the batsmen in the starting XI at Mumbai has some moment of success to look back upon, and maybe it is the start of a more firm batting line-up, especially with Hameed waiting in the wings – but it’s still not the certainty many seem to indicate. There are still vacancies in the top and middle order.

The spin bowling has been game, but not as good in these conditions as their opponents but that can hardly be their fault, and it isn’t a surprise. We didn’t go to the West Indies in 1985/6 expecting to match the West Indies pace attack on friendly wickets, so why expect our spinners to match the Indian bowlers? I’ve been more disappointed with the seamers, who not only have looked mostly unthreatening, have also been talking as defeatists. We aren’t worried about them in England, but when the chips are down in Australia, and they may well be, I don’t want to hear talk of wickets nullifying them, and players being good at home.

Given the diverse signals being given off, and interpreted, by the press, the media have had to coalesce around one key issue. The agenda was set, and how it will please him that it did, by #39 and his interview with Alastair Cook prior to the tour. There he let slip that he might consider leaving the captaincy sooner or later, and that might be at the end of this tour. There was a certain wistfulness about returning to the ranks and being the senior pro, rather than the one calling the shots.

I said what I thought of that when the issue reared its head. Alastair Cook may give off an “aww shucks” demeanour, but he’s a very skilled media operator (rather than a skilled orator). There is no way that the media profile he’s had has not been achieved without some very skillful work. Grown journos have confessed their undying love for the chap. So if Alastair thinks he’s been misinterpreted, as Trevor Bayliss has mentioned today in a totally unconvincing load of old tosh, then more fool Cook. But I don’t think he was misinterpreted at all. I think he knew how that comment would come out, but as to his motives, you’ll have to ask him. This hasn’t arisen before, to my knowledge. It’s all about steel, iron and resilience under fire.

What this article did, though, was to give the journalists out there, and those sitting back here in the UK, a way in. They could start debating whether Cook should stay or go, without impugning his character or reputation. This reminds me most of the end of Atherton’s time in charge. Having won a breathless final test in the 1997 Ashes, when the media were calling for him to go (Nigel Clarke being particularly vociferous, I seem to recall), Athers was persuaded to stay on for a tour of the West Indies. We lost that series 3-1 and Atherton resigned immediately after. He’d given off the signals that he didn’t want to stay on, and was persuaded to do so. Cook is giving off those signals now, even talking about imagining a future where he is in the team, but not captain. So if he’s considering it, he knows, he had to know, that the press would speculate on it given half a chance. That would be more pronounced if we were losing the series, and the captain looked a bit frazzled around the edges in doing so. If there were a couple of odd dismissals, then even more could be read into it. Post-Bangladesh, with that series ending on a bad note, this wasn’t ideal timing.

After Rajkot the tune changed. There was a lot less about Cook’s perceived wishes, and a positive bounce in the steps after a very worthy performance and a century for the captain. The scribes, commentators and “The Verdict” crew were effusive in their praise, paying homage to the captain, and excusing his caution (which I agreed with, so you won’t be getting me on that one) as totally understandable. He had shown great resolve, some good captaincy and the universe could live in peace. Cook’s future wasn’t on the agenda.

Two test matches later, some odd dismissals, some lacklustre, even downright bad captaincy in those games, combined with a week off between tests, and the mood and direction had changed. In watching how the press approached it, one could see the great forces at play. Having a go at Cook is, for the digital world, with its plethora of opinions, On here the outside world believes we are mostly focused on “getting rid of Cook because he got KP sacked”. That’s the view we get, no matter how many times we repeat ourselves as being the wrong end of the stick. It’s a very unreasonable simplicity that prevents those reading for looking at this more deeply.

I’m past caring whether Cook carries on or not. What we have not done on this, as the media have at this juncture, is to raise a storm now – this is seen as the most vociferous of blogs, but it isn’t us who have started the fire. It hasn’t been much elsewhere I’ve seen, but it is with some of those who have sat on the fence, or even issued “Back Cook” missives in the past. In this case, believe it or not, the digital world of social media has followed, not encouraged. Has commented but not been the provocateur.

I wrote in “What’s Cooking”

So why now, people? What aren’t you telling us? Someone is clearly muttering something, because even though we have no idea how good journalism works, we know how this thing works, because we’ve seen it happen. Is Strauss talking? It appears the most likely as Bayliss is a Strauss appointment, and Cook a Hugh Morris/Paul Downton one (Morris originally, Downton post Ashes 2103-14). Is it the Venus Fly Trap, through Newman, who is laying his poisonous seeds for sins of the past? Something is afoot, and I think we all want to know what it might be. Going to tell us good ladies and gentlemen of the press? Why have Pringle and Newman turned? Now?

Is it merely a coincidence, or is it a message? Can the press seek the changes they always used to, but in a more deferential, less combative manner? To call for Cook to resign because he’s a poor captain is to invoke a wrath rarely seen in the media world, and from his loyal fans online – hell we’ve seen it often enough. But it’s not far from the truth to question his ability, because tactically he’s never been the best. He’s had to rely on the nonsensical “leads from the front”, probably because he opens, but in his past 45 test matches he has five test hundreds. There’s no doubt he is a leading figure in the dressing room, looked up to by many of his colleagues, but is that enough? Are we aiming so low as creation of a good environment? There’s the contention he’s a nice guy, and you don’t have a go at them (friends of mine at work encountered him at Chelmsford, and said he was genuinely very friendly) if they are nice, do you? That makes you mean spirited, bilious, vitriolic. Something the mere blogger gets thrown at them. So the press get to do their thing having it both ways. Looking to create the succession, but keeping their cards close to their chest if it doesn’t happen now.

Which has been perfect for them. This whole “debate” is a pretty cynical construct if you ask me. It allows key supporters like Newman, Stocks and Selfey (passim) to put forward public positions of support, but that he should pack it in if he really doesn’t feel up to it. They wouldn’t have a go at him for feeling he’s run his race, given what he has been through, and he’s been an absolute beacon of integrity. The man has “suffered enough”. There’s no debates over who might be the best captain, whether the team needs fresh ideas, a new impetus, a different direction, because these people will still be very happy if Cook remains in post. There are little digs about Joe Root, about how he might not be a leader – nothing in the league of Newman’s leak against Ian Bell – and how we might ruin his best form. As Chris said in the comments on the previous piece, why is this a given?

An attempt to put the case from outside this cosy consensus is met with the usual old crap about us being pro-KP zealots who wanted him gone the day he got shot of our hero. I could write another 10000 words on that old bollocks, but I saw it again today and it made me whistle now as it did then. I’ve been pretty laid back about this Cook crap. If he wants to go, he’ll go. If he wants to stay, Strauss would stun me if he effectively dismissed him. I’ve always felt getting to the 2017-18 Ashes was a huge stretch, given Cook would need to be in the job for over 5 years, and the natural cycle (unless your Graeme Smith) is 4 years or so, but I can perfectly understand why Cook might want another go at the Ashes down under to lance a boil if possible. But it’s not his decision, and that is the point – or at least it shouldn’t be his decision. This is England, not Cook’s England. If our board, our Comma, think Cook is at the end of the race, then they should tell him. If he chooses to make a dignified exit, then so be it. It should not be if Cook wants to stay, that’s it. But I suspect that is precisely how it will be.

The press can speculate. It’s fun to speculate. But when that speculation has to be on message, then we smell a rat. We can come up with all sorts of theories – mine is Cook has been very affected by missing the immediate aftermath of the birth of his latest child and has appeared slightly off key all winter – but at the end of the day if, as I sort of expect, he goes at the end of this tour (that’s what all the desperate signals say) I’ll actually be quite disappointed. Yes, you read that right. I’d be disappointed because if he felt like this at the start, and all impressions were that he was, he should have sought a rest. Some proper time off. I don’t think anyone, really, could have begrudged him that. He should not have skippered with this in his head. Because if he quits after this next test, it was in his head all along. Just like Atherton back in 1997-8.

We can evaluate the test series at the end, but I find our media machinations much more fascinating. They have had to twist and contort their way through this issue, keeping loyal to the Cosa Cooky, while intimating they aren’t out of touch with the messages being dripped to them. It is a high wire act convincing no-one. This is about the softest press a captain at the end of his tether has ever got. It’s about invoking KP tweets to feed the hostility some more. It’s about complaining that we never had a chance, and then saying it is perfectly understandable that the captain might think about his future. They may not be all either/or issues, but they are a clear message. Cook is still their main man, will always be their main man, and nothing is going to sway them from it. By trying to give him a dignified way out is out of character, and isn’t fooling many of us. It’s the same in many ways as 2014. Cook is the ECB’s man, and that means a lot. Get in line, follow the crowd, make the pro-points, and be a good little journo. Because Cook is nice.

An interesting post-script to Cook leaving the captaincy is how much rope he will be given to stay in the team. Cook the batsman is more disposable than Cook the captain. He will be 32 in less than a fortnight. A bad run at the top of the order is, with 32 year olds, accompanied by accusations of not being fit, being worn out, having your eyes going, not wanting it any more, or “time to make way for young players”. Watching our media when that happens is going to be truly fascinating. I suspect many want him to play until he’s 36 / 37 when he can get to Sachin’s run totals. There will be more rope than others, I’ll bet. Ricky Ponting didn’t have to make too many iffy scores before he got the tap on the shoulder.

I’m never surprised by this lot. Not really. It wouldn’t surprise me if they went into mourning the day he does resign. Especially if it is before the next Ashes, where the Redemption Tour will be in full force. Deep down they know they can’t go into it with a half-hearted leader. They know he really has to go. But they can’t force themselves to really say it. But they can still create a debate. It’s been a fascinating exercise to watch. Vic Marks reckons his time is up. Dean Wilson seemed to be saying it too. All at the end of a series where we have been well beaten, and the captain excused of it while players are blamed. It’s been a real treat. There’s more to follow, I am sure.

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89 thoughts on “The Curious Case of the Cook Captaincy Kerfuffle

  1. jennyah46 December 13, 2016 / 8:54 pm

    Given the situation in Bangladesh Cook could not take a break. His place was with his team. It could not be any other way.

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    • LordCanisLupus December 13, 2016 / 8:57 pm

      He could. They all could. Whether they felt they could is another matter. There are no absolutes in this.

      If he hadn’t gone, with a kid just born, this media would have helped no end. No doubt about it at all. As they absolutely should!

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      • man in a barrel December 14, 2016 / 12:09 am

        Hang about…when I raised this question yesterday, no one seemed to go along with my view.

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    • Mark December 13, 2016 / 10:26 pm

      Of course he could of not gone to Bangladesh. Strauss took a tour off I believe.

      The media would have done a 180 degree change from the coverage they have given Morgan. ( No Oliver Holt flying in like top gun) to trash him. Instead the line would have been….

      “An very sensible move by Cook to spend time with his wife and new born. Saving his energy, and steely core for the series that really matters against India. Everyone needs a break and Cook is right to take his now before the real stuff starts………Blah blah blah”

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      • jennyah46 December 14, 2016 / 9:18 am

        And they would have been quite right too. 🙂

        Like

    • BobW December 14, 2016 / 8:36 am

      Cook had just had a break anyway from the English summer. Then after this tour he has another few months off. So he hardly needed a break, What was wrong was the timing of the baby. That was just unfortunate.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jennyah46 December 14, 2016 / 9:18 am

        That’s right.

        Like

  2. thelegglance December 13, 2016 / 9:15 pm

    Damn, I hate it when his response is to go and write something really, really good…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark December 13, 2016 / 10:16 pm

      Just checked my emails again, and I didn’t get your email TLG. If It’s not important, I will just leave it. unless you have something you need to tell me.

      Like

  3. jennyah46 December 13, 2016 / 9:16 pm

    You are right. The bottom line would have been if he felt he had to go. I’m sure his participation in the Bangladesh tour was a personal or family decision irrespective of any possible adverse comments. I doubt that he would give a monkeys what anybody else thought. I wouldn’t in his place.

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  4. SimonH December 13, 2016 / 9:56 pm

    “some lacklustre, even downright bad captaincy in those games”.

    I think that’s quite a generous summary – every Test has seen bad captaincy and by bad captaincy I don’t mean insufficiently funky. not Mike Brearley, being-clever-with-hindsight bad but Test captaincy 101 bad.

    Rajkot – not the timing of the declaration but the lack of urgency before the declaration. Exactly the same mistake he made in the First Test in UAE – and in both cases, difficult not to feel personal batting landmarks didn’t get in the way. Certain player/captains would have been crucified for this.

    Visag – bringing Ansari on as first spinner on the first day for a long spell that took all the pressure off was just awful; not putting any close-catchers in for Ashwin late on day one with the second new ball let him get away with an aerial slice through gully was just typical (if he’d put extra close-catchers in different places and the ball went in a gap I wouldn’t complain – but he didn’t bring any in). Instructing the team on a fourth innings’ blockathon wasn’t great either.

    Mohali – so bad that his previous pom-pom girl Nasser Hussain started his post-match analysis with a list of Cook’s errors. Taking Rashid off so he couldn’t get a five-for was the one that infuriated Hussain. It seemed the least of his sins to me.

    Mumbai – picking six bowlers and then forgetting to use four of them while bowling another for 28 consecutive overs. Not taking the second new ball (okay, maybe a bit of hindsight with that one). Opening Day Four with ten consecutive overs of Moeen Ali while Anderson and Rashid didn’t get a bowl until nearly lunchtime. The non-use of Root. The whole idea of playing four seamers.

    Every match – does anyone feel they’ve been able to see any plans for India’s batsmen? I don’t mean “subcontinentals don’t like it up ’em – bowl a load of bouncers” type plans but a plan based on a weakness of an individual batsman that they’ve noticed. Maybe Rashid bowling an early googly at Rahane is one – I can’t think of much else. With India, I think you can see how they are trying to get most of the England players out.

    Really, he’s made glaring mistakes in every match, in every facet of captaincy (except doing the wrong thing when winning the toss – and that’s only because it’s so obvious what you do in India, there hasn’t been one toss where it was at all marginal what one might do). Would it have changed the result of the series? Probably not – but so what? Was it as good as it reasonably could be? Not even close. I’m struggling to see how anyone else could have been worse.

    I think he’ll try to cling on – and Strauss won’t make him go, by the way. Lord, I hope that’s wrong but everything I’ve seen of them points in that direction.

    Liked by 2 people

      • SimonH December 13, 2016 / 10:14 pm

        Always happy to supply a top-up….. 🙂

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  5. SimonH December 13, 2016 / 10:58 pm

    http://www.cricket.com.au/news/feature/trevor-bayliss-england-test-series-loss-india-mumbai-alastair-cook-andy-flower-ansari-dawson/2016-12-13

    Stocks:
    “Flower’s responsibility for the Lions – England’s second team – arguably makes him the most influential voice on selection this winter…. Flower has become a de facto selector”.

    But he then goes on to criticise Flower’s backing of Liam Dawson and ends up by saying Bayliss “needs to start trusting his own instinct more”.

    Didn’t expect that from him. Strange times!

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      • thelegglance December 14, 2016 / 9:22 am

        I think Chris Stocks tailors his articles to what his employers want in terms of tone. So his stuff is always going to be pretty contradictory given his freelance status.

        But that’s a guess, without talking to him it’s hard to know.

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      • SimonH December 14, 2016 / 9:28 am

        Yes, I’d been wondering that about the first article. I’ve been reading his articles for Australia quite regularly during this series and he does try to find an Australian angle on things (hence the focus on Bayliss here). However it didn’t prevent him in early ones saying how good England were looking for the next Ashes!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Simon K December 13, 2016 / 11:14 pm

    “he’s a very skilled media operator (rather than a skilled orator)”

    The sad bit is that these skills are mostly deployed for self-preservation rather than, as they ought to be, in the interest of the team. Why else would he blame ‘missed chances’ for the latest defeat, knowing that those individuals responsible for those missed chances are likely feeling pretty bad and could do with solidarity from their leader? And if ‘missed chances’ are really to blame guess whose decision making comes off the heat? Compare to 2005, in which by all accounts it was practically a religious mantra not to blame people for isolated errors.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Miami Dad's Six December 13, 2016 / 11:28 pm

    Cook going to Bangladesh was driven by three factors; had Root captained a 2-0 win before Cook captained a 5-0 loss (not unreasonable scenarios), that could feasibly be Cook’s tenure over and not of his personal choosing – the Cook captaincy mandate has always been entirely backed up by the idea that TINA. He is the one. The only one. Cook himself was groomed for Straussys succession well before it happened, having an in form rival already lined up with experience of captaining the side making runs just isn’t what an awkward looking accumulator needs.

    The second reason is based on similar lines; that Cook would have almost certainly believed that England would win the series 2-0. This would have left him just one Test win behind Vaughan. England’s “greatest ever batsman” would then be two wins away from being England’s “greatest ever captain”. I often wonder how much dressing room emphasis this England side put on personal milestones and stats. Listening to Stuart Broad interview, he sure knows an awful lot about his personal figures and averages. Anderson ‘bowling dry’ in Asia is wasting the new ball, when even a scattergun Steve Finn burst would be more useful (am no great fan of Finn FWIW, although I feel in an alternative universe I might well have been). There are other examples..

    Finally, he’s the ‘brave’ leader with ‘iron will’ and ‘determination’ and ‘perseverance’, and stuff. It just fit the narrative that a rival for an opening batsman spot, plus (even better) a rival for the title of ‘England captain’, were ‘too cowardly’ to go.

    Liked by 2 people

    • amit garg December 14, 2016 / 3:06 am

      Quite well put. I have often been skeptical of any individual that says they don’t look at personal milestones. Cook was the first one to gloat (okay this may be a bit strong word) when he got to 10000 runs.
      “You can’t really argue with a bloke who’s scored 10000 runs” lets you in a bit on the thought process of the guy. I agree, Bangladesh tour would’ve looked like a sure 2-0, irrespective of how the post series narrative has been with a lot of journalists.
      Going on a high (or beating MV’s record) might be the only temptation left for Cook as a skipper, but Strauss needs to be a bit ruthless for a better future of the team. I can’t see it any other way.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. BobW December 13, 2016 / 11:53 pm

    Totally agree with Simon on Cook’s captaincy. Well said.

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  9. northernlight71 December 14, 2016 / 1:48 am

    I can only agree with this. It really isn’t that interesting to speculate on what Cook wants to do, or whether he’ll decide to quit, or if he’ll get to choose. Much more interesting is to watch the twists and turns of the embedded journalists, desperate to keep their access and to keep the appearance of being at the centre of things, but not wanting to look out of the loop, or to hitch their horses too closely to a wagon that might become detached from Project ECB.

    Still, can’t wait for the next piece of whimsy from The Spin. Perhaps a piece about cricket on the moon. Or some character from the 1870s who got a road named after him. That kind of incisive stuff really does it for me.

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    • thelegglance December 14, 2016 / 9:52 am

      It’s funny really. The journalists keep asking us why we focus on them, but the machinations of the ECB and the press is invariably the best way to try to understand what’s going on. They keep giving us material.

      Liked by 1 person

      • "IronBalls" McGinty December 14, 2016 / 10:29 am

        The gift that keeps on giving! Of course, buried within the latest Cook contretemps the city based franchise new shiny toy has been posponed to 2020, the rumblings in the Shires continues apace. It looks like the Oval will be denied a place, in favour of some backwater in Kent….there’s a lot going on while eyes ard off the ball!

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        • thelegglance December 14, 2016 / 10:34 am

          Describing Kent as a backwater is a pretty good way of ensuring you and I fall out 😉

          Liked by 1 person

      • "IronBalls" McGinty December 14, 2016 / 11:18 am

        Tee hee…backwater in Kent, as opposed to backwater of Kent.
        If you want backwater you want to see where I live…the sheep keep the outfield shorn!! 🙂

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  10. pktroll (@pktroll) December 14, 2016 / 3:56 am

    I’m of the mind now that Cook may well be at the stage where the job ‘has finally got to him’ as it had with Hussain and Vaughan etc. Of course many here would have argued that it should have been curtains after THAT tour, but that’s not really for discussion here. The fact that it has been considered by the man himself must on reflection have been a sign that he’d perhaps been thinking about it, and what was always likely to be a difficult series has just heaped more and more on it. I don’t think now that there is any choice but to make that change and would consider it an utter cop out if the ECB management kept him in the job.

    I don’t think now that it is a question of if there is an alternative or not – there always is if you are wiling to change track – it is whether or not it would be doing the team any good carrying on with a zombie captain, keeping on a guy whose heart is no longer in it. By the way Dmitri, it is 5 tons in his past 47 games, just to be accurate! I’m not going to let anyone, let alone the tools in the press get away with that because it is such a hobby horse of mine that Cook has never been the same players since the start of the Ashes 2013 home series. From that point, he has averaged shy of 42 with those 5 tons alone. It indeed gets my goat up that we are forced to reading on about him being an all time great when you have a substantial amount of his career that has made him a fair way from that.

    As for him continuing in the side, I don’t think 32 is any sort of age to consider dropping him completely, not with the dysfunctional batting line-up as it stands and that they can play him, Jennings and Hameed together if that’s the way they want to go. It might even do Root some good to go back to 4. Possibly at this stage Jennings might do no.3.

    Like

    • BobW December 14, 2016 / 8:39 am

      Root really needs to go back to four in the batting order. For his sake and the teams sake. Never understood the point of making your best batsman fill the gaps in elsewhere. That is another selection issue that needs to be addressed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • SimonH December 14, 2016 / 9:23 am

        Steve Smith very quickly went down to No.4 when he was captain and so did Hashim Amla. Heck, even Viv went down the order when he was captain.

        Only a complete fool would view batting at No.3 as some macho “badge of honour”:

        https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2015/jul/24/ian-bell-england-no-3

        As Chappelli nearly said, find out what Mike Selvey thinks, and do the opposite…..

        He and Ricky Ponting are the only two in vaguely recent times I can think of who made a long term success of captaining from No.3.

        (Chappelli’s had some “interesting” things to say about Steve Waugh, by the way. The words “selfish” and “bullshit” featured quite prominently)

        Like

      • jennyah46 December 14, 2016 / 9:30 am

        Root has not been best served by the way his career has been mismanaged. Landing him with the captaincy now is unlikely to be the best policy.

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      • thelegglance December 14, 2016 / 9:57 am

        I’ve never really understood why so many people demand that the best player is the one who should move when there’s a problem in the line up. If he’s a matchwinning batsman, put him where he’s most comfortable.

        This happens all the time. As soon as a player is batting well, up goes the clamour to change his role from where he’s done well to where he might not. Instead of one problem you end up with two.

        It’s crazy. If he’s the best player, ask him where he wants to bat and build the batting line up around him.

        Incidentally, I don’t remember any successful opener, ever, being proposed to move to number three because that’s an issue. It’s only ever the middle order moving up.

        Like

      • d'Arthez December 14, 2016 / 10:34 am

        The only other recent one I can think of is Fleming. Oh, and rumour has it that Sangakkara was a handy #3. The latter of course did not captain too long, and the former mostly batted at 4 (51 innings vs. 62 innings; but his batting average (as captain) at 3 was 49.63 while at 4 it was just 36.18)

        Liked by 1 person

      • man in a barrel December 14, 2016 / 11:12 am

        LG, in Australia 1970-71, Illy put Edrich at #3, breaking up the Boycott-Edrich opening partnership which had been rather successful. During the unofficial Rest of the World series in 1970, Luckhurst had established himself in the England side as an opener while Boycott was out injured. In Australia, the vice captain, Cowdrey, who was a long-time #3 but never really in Illy’s confidence, was unable to strike any sort of form so Illy thought that moving Edrich to 3 would give the kind of solidity to the innings that he wanted.

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      • man in a barrel December 14, 2016 / 11:17 am

        For one Test in the 1950-51 Ashes, Hutton was moved to #4.

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  11. SimonH December 14, 2016 / 11:53 am

    Well, I guess we should be thankful there’s at least a question-mark in the headline:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/cricket/2016/12/14/alastair-cooks-england-captaincy-retrospective-sports-impossible/

    “It could be that, in a few years, it is England’s 2-1 2012 win in India that seems the remarkable result, not the 0-5 tonking in Australia 2013-2014”.

    Plus some other stuff – some more reasonable, some not.

    It’s one of those “reads like an obituary” pieces.

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    • nonoxcol December 14, 2016 / 12:19 pm

      Faced the criticism manfully, did he?

      Largely seen as blameless, was he? But by whom?

      No mention of Peter Moores, Paul Downton or Giles Clarke…?

      Goodwill towards his side as there never was with teams in the 1990s? Er……

      (some bloody awful typos in there as well – Alex Stewart and the brick ball being particular highlights!)

      Like

    • amit garg December 14, 2016 / 1:26 pm

      It does seem like an obituary. However, this has been in the making for a few years now. In the last 3 years, he hasn’t done much when on road. The solidity that he used to provide probably still remains, but the runs he used to provide aren’t coming. Excluding the series in Dubai, he’s averaging 32.5 – not good enough as a senior player and the captain. If he decides to step down, England might be tempted to try out Jennings and Hameed for a while.

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    • thelegglance December 14, 2016 / 1:36 pm

      Think it’s a pretty decent article really. It’s balanced, and Alan Tyers is (not for the first time) acute enough to recognise the difference between the media and reality.

      Like

  12. Mark December 14, 2016 / 12:41 pm

    Does it really matter if England lose 5-0 or 4-0 or even 3-0? For a team who was once hailed as being the numner 1 not so long ago to start anaylising if a 3-0 or 4-0 defeat is deemed as a fantastic achievememt seems an over indulgence.

    I don’t really understand all this Cook talk at this momemt. He has 5 months off now. Plenty of time to rest. So why now? Unless he has decided he’s had enough? The only other explanation is Srauss wants him gone, and would like him to resign in dignity rather than have the knife plunged into his back……by Strauss. You can’t blame Strauss wanting a Cook resignation as the means of his leaving. If he has to sack Cook, and the new captain is no good Strauss could find that same knife being plunged into his back by Newman and friends.

    Like

    • Zephirine December 14, 2016 / 1:27 pm

      I reckon Strauss wants him gone, partly for team/management reasons and partly because he’s seen cracks in the Cook facade.

      According to Strauss himself, what happened to him as captain was that he knew he’d had enough – and of course his batting was deteriorating too – didn’t say anything but hung on for his milestone of 100 Tests. Then he couldn’t wait to be gone.

      My guess is Strauss thinks Cook is at the same stage, though Cook being less self-aware may not have quite realised it. As the saying is “If you’re thinking about leaving, you’ve already left”. In which case, the best thing is to hold the door open.

      Strauss is pretty ruthless, but can dress things up nicely as ‘It’s all for the best’.

      Toast.

      Like

      • pktroll (@pktroll) December 14, 2016 / 2:21 pm

        I’m not so sure that Strauss was that keen to leave when he did even though his batting had been in freefall for a long time. I got the impression that he really did feel that the contretemps re ‘textgate’ pushed him to the door and out earlier than he wanted to. He had spoken of seeing things through to the end of 2013/14 even if his own performances as a player didn’t warrant it.

        I don’t think Cook is nearly at the same stage with his batting as I said above. It is disappointing that he’s not converting scores like he used to, but I think he’s been ill served with the nonsense written in the press anointing him as the greatest ever when he’s often been struggling. At the start of this year they were going on about his reaching 10k during the South Africa series, yet he bombed there and they had to wait until the Durham test v Sri Lanka for him to reach that point. For all said and done, I still think he can have 3 and more good years as a test match bat, without the burden of captaincy and as I said above a top 3 of him, Hameed and Jennings, with Root back to 4 just might give the batting order the solidity it needs. All of that I think might be what the England team needs.

        Like

      • Zephirine December 14, 2016 / 2:51 pm

        PK, I did hear Strauss on Sky saying that at that stage of his career he knew he’d had enough and he’d achieved everything he wanted to. It sounded as if 100 Tests was his personal end-point, after which he was ready to go at any time.

        I expect he was pissed off that the occasion was basically spoiled for him by all the textgate stuff. But from what he was saying, it didn’t make the decision for him. Frankly, I think he’s tougher than that.

        But as you say, it’s a different situation because he was going to quit the game altogether.

        Like

  13. thebogfather December 14, 2016 / 1:59 pm

    I’d love to join in the ‘Craptaincy’ debate, but I’ve spent the last month delighting in HDWLIA from the beginning, and I’m only up to early May 2014.!

    …and i must say…there is some exquisitely brilliant writings down there…(the odd bit of tosh too, to be fair) – but when Dmitri paces out his long run… Oh Yes!

    Blog readers note
    (If only WordPress could calendar Archive months from 1st top down rather than end down, so as to follow more easily/quickly, the thread )

    Yet, as this series and all the thrown up/currying favour debates reach a crescendo/muddy mess, I’ll be back, poetically (well, that’s likely to go down the drain not well :))

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus December 14, 2016 / 2:39 pm

      As I was the only author in those days, that tosh is mine.

      That pass can be rescinded you know.

      Diva Dmitri

      Liked by 1 person

      • thebogfather December 14, 2016 / 4:34 pm

        I’d Flower you in perfumed perfection
        Standing against the ECB/MSM self aroused erection
        Which, only now is coming copiously so contused
        As leaks or good journalism are mixed dopes media so confused
        Where even the press’ed’ event don’t know which way to bare
        As Alice stares into the looking glass of despair
        It’s no wonder we’re in wonderland
        As ECB shuffles the corporate hand
        Tossing a coin
        So heads up the tail fails
        Weigh Anchors All
        Now setting Cookie for the fall
        Except the relief that he’ll resign
        For the good of ENGLAND, why will remain undefined
        NOR QUESTIONED
        Ever
        As never
        Was the outfall of the blantant
        2013/14 FIVE…NIL, series so seriously appalling
        Where we still await, the truth, the investigation
        MOVING ON?
        Seems like a new edition of inside repetition…

        Like

  14. Silk December 14, 2016 / 3:35 pm

    I don’t think he’ll go. I don’t think Strauss will force him out (though I could be wrong on that) and while I think that Cook probably hates it by now, he /really/ wants Vaughan’s record. And he probably looks at South Africa in Australia and thinks that the away Ashes victory is there for the taking.

    As for the press, well, beneath contempt, really (Squire Marks aside). Allowing “His captaincy has improved over the last 18 months” bollocks to go unchallenged is just … very much in keeping with everything else they publish.

    They don’t think we are stupid. They know we can see it with our own eyes. They just don’t care.

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus December 14, 2016 / 4:50 pm

      Fighting the good fight still BTL, sir. You have boundless patience.

      It’s amazing how an ostensibly dull persona such as Cook raises such enigmatic questions. Who is he? What is he? Devoted fan boys and girls vs implacable opponents. Higgins v Steve Davis. Borg v McEnroe.

      Like

      • Silk December 15, 2016 / 10:50 am

        My thanks.

        I’m not sure it’s healthy (in fact it’s almost certainly not healthy) but I have difficult days (weeks and months) at work, and venting BTL helps me feel like I’m in control, even when I’m not.

        Steering clear of Brexit articles is important. Cricket is a ‘safe space’ for me to work my anger and frustration out.

        Like

  15. SimonH December 14, 2016 / 3:39 pm

    He’s been busy today. Here’s a highlight:

    There’s plenty more….

    Like

    • Mark December 14, 2016 / 4:30 pm

      I know people…..who know, don’t you know?

      Like

      • SimonH December 14, 2016 / 4:48 pm

        You’ll never guess who he’d pick when the team only needs one spinner. The one whose taken 22 wickets at 32 or the one whose taken 9 wickets at 51? You’ll never guess…..

        Oh, you guessed it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • nonoxcol December 14, 2016 / 5:49 pm

        His card has been marked, though. No-one cares about wickets.

        I have to say that, regardless of where you stand on Messrs Cook, Flower, Saker, Strauss and Pietersen, I’m surprised more people haven’t realised just how *boring* he is. So much so that even “Selvey bingo” bores me.

        Marks played roughly the same number of Test matches (almost certainly more, plus ODIs), had a similarly long first-class career, went to Oxford while MS went to Cambridge, attended public school rather than state, yet somehow manages to avoid being so relentlessly pompous and insufferable, to avoid name-dropping and preening like they’re Olympic sports, and to avoid insulting his readers. Remarkable really.

        Like

    • Silk December 15, 2016 / 10:53 am

      For people “who would know” they sure as hell don’t know a lot.

      I knew that picking Ballance, Finn, Ansari and Batty would end in tears. I knew that dropping Batty for Ansari in Bangladesh, when the former had bowled really well was a bad idea. I knew that Cook wouldn’t have a clue how to captain his bowlers once India got set.

      I’m not a bloody cricket coach. I don’t even have Sky. This stuff is bloody obvious. You could see it from Mars.

      But those in ‘the know’ can’t see it. Which means, I think, that they are incompetent.

      Like

    • LordCanisLupus December 14, 2016 / 3:48 pm

      Graeme Smith once liked a tweet linking one of my pieces. Thought I’d name drop that.

      Like

      • Zephirine December 14, 2016 / 5:01 pm

        Kevin Pietersen one linked to one of your pieces, I remember it well. Or perhaps in Fail parlance we should say he ‘couldn’t resist’ it.

        Like

    • jomesy December 14, 2016 / 10:35 pm

      Jeez – If you watch the video he’s clearly just laughing it all off

      Like

    • nonoxcol December 14, 2016 / 11:07 pm

      I particularly like the part where, of the two England spinners, one *in particular* had a bad game.

      Like

      • amit garg December 15, 2016 / 2:30 am

        I think they know enough about Mo’s bowling now that only if he takes wickets at a lower average, it would be a new worthy. Rashid is being promoted as the lead spin bowler – though in failure. Typical of these guys.

        Like

  16. Miami Dad's Six December 14, 2016 / 9:37 pm

    Apologies for an off topic interruption, but BT Sport are showing Australia vs Pakistan tonight. I thought the Aus/Saffer series was a one off, but it appears BT have snapped up 5 years of cricket from Down Under. I’m a step closer to giving up on my SKY subscription. They seem to have lost an awful lot of their content; what used to be an overpriced way to sell my soul, but at the same time felt like a little personal treat to myself, has become an overpriced way to sell my soul, and merely *half* a personal treat to myself.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Miami Dad's Six December 15, 2016 / 1:30 am

        I can’t decide what I want from a highlights package on cricket. Generally with sports, I just want as much of the action as is possible to cram into the allotted time, however cricket sometimes needs more explaining than just that. In an hour slot though, it might be possible to show every ball from a days play, especially when England are bowling! Either way, I’ll get to see none of the stuff from the series in Australia, which is irritating as it is on at a time when I’m definitely not going to be in work.

        Like

  17. oreston December 14, 2016 / 11:11 pm

    Stokes wheeled out to make a loyal address:
    “He had been part of the driving force of getting us to be the team we are today.”

    Not sure that’s really the ringing endorsement Ben thinks it is, unless he’s acquired a sense of irony.

    http://m.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/38316407

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus December 15, 2016 / 8:47 am

      Never.

      That’s the sound of a ladder being pulled up. Isn’t it?

      The sort of thing we used to pull on tour for the final game in club cricket. He was rushed back, against medical advice it seemed and now he’s back in cotton wool? Mixed messages fellas.

      Like

      • SimonH December 15, 2016 / 9:05 am

        Looking forward to the chorus of “lost his nip” that we heard about his predecessor around this stage of his career?

        No, me neither.

        Cook will still probably find a way to give him one of the reviews in Chennai……

        Liked by 1 person

        • LordCanisLupus December 15, 2016 / 9:08 am

          Anyone checked if there are earlier flights out of Chennai? You know, like someone else was meant to have done but like so many other things was never substantiated and was filled under “good journalism”.

          Like

      • man in a barrel December 15, 2016 / 9:48 am

        With 7 months to the next Test, this looks odd. Remember the outrage that Swann provoked by leaving a tour early? If Anderson is only sore, then surely the “leader of the attack” should be on the field. We are left to conclude that he was rushed back prematurely and that the reason he did not bowl much was because he was still carrying this mystery injury. Body soreness sounds rather like what Hoggard called flatwicketitis

        Liked by 1 person

      • SimonH December 15, 2016 / 9:52 am

        Anyone have any thoughts who -assuming fitness and normal conditions – they’d like to see as England’s bowling attack at the Gabba?

        I’ll say now that I wouldn’t want Anderson, Woakes and Ali.

        I can’t avoid the feeling that Steve Finn is England’s most important bowler for the Ashes (perhaps after Broad). That said, Finn has had two Ashes’ tours and they haven’t worked out (and whatever one thinks of how he was managed, the player has to take some responsibility). Finn was absolutely crucial to the win in SA. What happened to him after that tour remains a mystery.

        I’d go with Broad, Finn, Wood/Ball, Stokes and Rashid.

        Like

      • Silk December 15, 2016 / 11:09 am

        In response to “Anyone have any thoughts who -assuming fitness and normal conditions – they’d like to see as England’s bowling attack at the Gabba?”

        I don’t think England are capable of getting Finn in the mental shape to bowl well, anywhere. Then again, it was only a year ago he was bowling well in South Africa, so perhaps I’m being unfair. (Though I can’t help but think the Ashes tour will be a lot tougher than the South Africa one)

        Broad, if fit, is a must. Wood might go well, again, if fit. I agree that I can’t see Anderson or Woakes doing much. New bowlers need looking at. TRJ. One of the Currans, perhaps? An Overton?

        Not sure about Ball. What do others think about him?

        Broad, Wood, Stokes, TRJ, Rashid? With Leach or Kerrigan or Raynor at the SCG.

        Like

      • SimonH December 15, 2016 / 11:58 am

        It’s probably wishful thinking about Finn from me. I’d also acknowledge that there’s a problem that my bowling line-up lacks a natural “stock” bowler (unless Ball played).

        I’m quite a TRJ fan. I saw him do this:

        http://www.espncricinfo.com/rwanda/engine/match/542533.html

        The trouble he caused a well-set Ed Joyce was highly impressive. (Crikey, it was longer ago than I realised seeing some of the names who were playing!). I don’t think TRJ and Ball could play together as they’re too similar in method. I’m not sure either will be that effective in Australia.

        My deeper point, I suppose, is we keep hearing about England’s “talent” – but do the bowling options look Ashes-winning? I’m not at all convinced.

        Final point – I wonder if the most important match for Cook’s future isn’t Chennai, but in Brisbane? The English media don’t seem to have noticed Australia getting their act together since Hobart. Australia’s team still has a good spine (one proven opener, settled Nos. 3 and 4, very good opening attack, experienced spinner) and they got caught by SA in Perth with brains still scrambled by SL and in Hobart on an English-type seaming deck. They aren’t Bradman’s Invincibles and a Starc injury would be a massive problem for them – but this idea that England only have to show up and they’ll walk the Ashes is cloud cuckoo-land.

        Like

      • SimonH December 15, 2016 / 10:20 am

        There won’t be any juicy May/June Tests in England this summer to cash in either.

        Like

    • Silk December 15, 2016 / 11:00 am

      I like the fact that Cook has anointed Anderson for the Ashes. Is he now Chairman of Selectors, too?

      Though you can understand the reasoning. If you look at Anderson’s record in Australia and his overseas record in general, he’d be the first name on the teamsheet. Or the second, rather, after Cook.

      Liked by 1 person

      • man in a barrel December 15, 2016 / 11:30 am

        Cooky likes having his mates around. Swann and Prior basically had to de-select themselves. The stuff that is being said about he is the captain for as long as he wants has some eerie echoes of what Cook said about Prior just after his last Test

        Liked by 1 person

      • Silk December 15, 2016 / 12:07 pm

        Also, that’s about the clearest indication yet that Cook intends to stay as captain through the Ashes.

        Told you.

        Cook doesn’t quit.

        0 – 10 is ON, baby.

        Liked by 1 person

      • SimonH December 15, 2016 / 12:51 pm

        Cook’s discerned Anderson’s fitness by “talking to him and looking into his eyes”.

        This’ll be available on the NHS soon.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Silk December 15, 2016 / 4:57 pm

        Simon – That’s how they gauged the mental health of Trott and Monty, and the size of Matt Prior’s hamstring tear, and the state of Swann’s elbow.

        Like

  18. man in a barrel December 15, 2016 / 9:52 am

    They’ve thrown the towel in, haven’t they. I bet if Cook wins the toss, he’ll send India in and bowl underarm.

    Like

    • amit garg December 15, 2016 / 11:10 am

      This one is evolving into a serious issue. Thakur happens to be a sitting member of the parliament as well…

      Like

  19. amit garg December 15, 2016 / 11:12 am

    So Anderson out of last test with general soreness. I didn’t realize he had bowled that many overs in the series.

    Cop out on Ashwin’s home ground?

    Like

    • pktroll (@pktroll) December 15, 2016 / 11:23 am

      I’d have dropped him in any case. I would drop Woakes too and bring in Dawson even if his squad selection seems unmerited. He certainly didn’t look a dangerous spinner on a 4th day Oval pitch back in September. He was up against Sangakkara though, for one.

      Like

      • Silk December 15, 2016 / 12:10 pm

        I agree. Dawson shouldn’t be there. But he’s there and you don’t need more than 3 seamers in India. (Indeed India could manage with only one for long periods, though Dev was a little bit special).

        Dawson for Anderson is one obvious change. Woakes for a bowler likely to take wickets (shame we haven’t got one) the other change. OK, a batsman who’s likely to make runs. Oh, I GIVE UP.

        Interestingly, Ballance is Yorks Captain now. Why not make him England captain, too? With all the all rounders he can bat at 10.

        Like

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