Sports Editor’s blog: Don’t write off Captain Cook’s men

Alistair Cook has hinted he may soon give up the captaincy EMN-161222-155133002
Alistair Cook has hinted he may soon give up the captaincy EMN-161222-155133002
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Our instantaneous, fickle and ever-changing online world can be a little frustrating for those of us who like to give things a bit of thought.

When I bashed out my first story as a cub reporter, my newsroom had no internet or email access so the wheels of breaking news moved slower. You had time to reflect and revisit before unleashing your story on an unsuspecting readership.

Now, the worldwide web and the prevalence of social media means a story has withered on the vine within hours of breaking.

The outpouring of apoplexy following England’s feeble finale to its tour of India was entirely expected.

But perhaps a bit of context and a smidge of perspective wouldn’t go amiss.

In post-match interview, Alistair Cook wore the expression of a man served a Christmas dinner made up exclusively of sprouts.

When asked about his future as England captain, Cook couldn’t have been more defensive had he padded up for a Boycott batting masterclass.

But he has been here before, and every time he has come through, but now it comes down to whether he actually wants the role anymore.

While every schoolboy dreams of flipping the coin as England skipper, it is a position, like England football manager or PM that will mercilessly wear down its ‘honoured’ incumbents.

How long can you retain the necessary desire and tenacity against the brickbats of defeat?

And how much trash talk from Kevin Pietersen, with the emphasis on trash, can one man handle before losing it?

This is a man, rather surprisingly, who last week was named skipper of the ICC’s Test team of 2016.

The same old arguments rumble on over his demeanour and laissez-faire tactics, but I don’t think field placements alone can be blamed for this winter’s woes.

It’s worth remembering what a tough place India is to tour. For Test sides from outside of Asia no challenge comes harder.

Even the great Australia sides of the 1990s and early 2000s struggled there.

Cook’s men also came up against an Indian team bang on form; the best in the world and virtually unbeatable on home soil.

The tourists had much the better of the first Test which has been largely forgotten amid the froth and rage.

It was a match they could and, perhaps, should have won, and there were chances in the following few Tests before it ebbed away so meekly.

If England had led that series, and the pressure of fanatical home support turned against their own team, Cook could have been looking at his second straight series win in the Subcontinent. That would have been a remarkable feat.

Add into the mix a succession of injuries to key players and the odds became even more firmly stacked against.

This looks an exciting England team with huge potential. The breakthrough of Hameed at opener was also a huge plus.

The balance of the side needs work, and a more consistent philosophy has to be found to prevent the talent and potential, particularly as a batting unit, from being wasted.

But given a settled XI, another pace bowler or two, and a consistent spinner, and England look likely to be the team to beat in the long term.

If, of course, we’re still able to think for the long term.