All eyes on Cook as he leads way

The opener takes one-day armband today knowing that if he succeeds the Test job could soon be his, writes Stephen Brenkley
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The Independent Online

In accordance with the new England way of doing things, Alastair Cook will today become their third captain in a week. Those who were saying, "Yes captain, no captain, three bags full captain," to Stuart Broad on Saturday can now start to take the mickey out of him again as he returns to a less hallowed place in the dressing room.

As for Andrew Strauss, who was still leading the team in a Test match on Monday last week, he has gone on holiday. For those still confused by the recent turn of events, Strauss is still England's Test captain, Broad is the Twenty20 captain and Cook will officially assume the one-day role in the first of a five-match series against Sri Lanka at The Oval. Applications, it is believed, are now closed although for a while there it appeared there was more chance of captaining England at cricket than of receiving a ticket for an Olympic Games event.

Cook comes to the job amid scepticism. He has played only 26 one-day internationals and only three in the past three years when he replaced Strauss as captain on the tour of Bangladesh early in 2010.

In his first incarnation, Cook (above) was found to be too limited in shot-making ability as a one-day player. When Strauss's one-day career resumed, Cook's temporarily stalled because it was impossible for them to play in the same side.

But Strauss has called it a day and the selectors see Cook almost as a like-for-like replacement. It should not be forgotten that Strauss reinvented himself as a one-day batsman. Cook intends to do likewise. In 77 innings up to 2007, Strauss averaged 32 with a strike rate of 75. After being brought back as captain those figures were 40 and 87.

"I think Strauss is a great example to me," said Cook yesterday. "You can evolve and improve and hopefully I can follow in his footsteps. I'm excited by the challenge, I think my one-day game has evolved since I last played. I know I can score runs at the top of the order."

Cook insists that his elevation to the one-day captaincy is not an audition for the Test captaincy. It is and it isn't. If he mucks it up, he will probably not be Test captain, but if he succeeds the selectors would have no need to look elsewhere.

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