Alastair Cook admits England's two-coach system has been 'challenge' for all

Opening batsman forced to please Andy Flower and Ashley Giles while developing as a captain


Before the end of the year, unless the selectors go mad, form deserts him in an unprecedented fashion or injury strikes, Alastair Cook will have played 100 Test matches for England. He will still be only 28 years old.

This is a big year in Cook's career, perhaps the biggest, for reasons other than reaching that particular milestone. There are two Ashes series plus a Champions Trophy at home in which Cook, again barring unforeseen occurrences, will be the England captain.

And before all that there are five Tests against New Zealand which England must negotiate with due diligence and respect while expecting to win the lot. It is, as Cook acknowledged, an exciting time to be an English cricketer. But it is a tough time too, for there will be other issues to confront: the habitual one of the relentlessness of it all, the impending negotiations over players' contracts which threaten to be acrimonious, and the continued bedding-in of the two- coach system.

"It's actually a great challenge for us as a side to see what we can do in these 15 Test matches," said Cook. "I don't think any England side has had the opportunity to play two back-to-back Ashes series – and play New Zealand as well.

"So we have the chance to do something very special. But it's only a chance if we perform to the level we can. If we don't, we'll get found out."

England actually played back-to- back Ashes series in 1974-75, losing the first 4-1 and the second 1-0. It should be different this time. New Zealand also provided the light relief between the Ashes encounters then, England winning a two-match series on the way back from Australia.

The schedule in the next 10 months will stretch the most prolific of players, which is why even Cook will do well to see out the entire programme. Before the start of the first Test in Dunedin he had played 87 Tests, of which the last 85 had been in succession, a record for an England player.

Cook is still relatively raw as a captain and he is the first to have to work with two separate coaches, as opposed to the former situation where a coach has worked with two or three different captains. Cook recognised that there were potential difficulties with Andy Flower in charge of the Test squad and Ashley Giles guiding the limited-overs squad.

"I think it has thrown up a few challenges," he said. "I think when we first announced it, we knew there would be. There aren't problems as much as differences in character. They are things we have to be aware of. Going forward we have to manage both those but with Andy Flower and Ashley Giles involved it's going to be a lot easier.

"They are different guys naturally. Gilo is a different character to Andy but I think that's great in one way because it gives each squad a different direction. Andy is a very intense guy and Gilo is a little bit laid-back off the field. But what they want on the field is pretty much the same, demanding high standards and the excellence you need."

So Cook will have to adapt to their individual styles. This summer, no sooner will he have finished with Giles in the Champions Trophy than Flower will be at the helm for the Ashes.

Somewhere swirling around are the talks over pay. Angus Porter, the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association, put it out in the open the other day when he warned that England players were underpaid because they were forced to miss out on the Indian Premier League and were expected to play so much.

Cook is not daft. He knows there is potential at least for it to cloud the Ashes series, which would be disastrous for everybody concerned.

"Sometimes you have to remember how lucky we are to play for England," he said. "We're in a very privileged position. Yes there are a few tough times when you keep having to leave home and stuff, but it's a very short career and we should feel very privileged to be putting on the three lions. All that other stuff will be dealt with off the field or after the series, but this is not the time to talk about it."

But time for talking there will have to be. Cook is clearly still coming to terms with the demands of being the captain of England. It is easy to forget that he has still not led the team in a home Test. In that regard, he is perhaps fortunate to have two Test matches against New Zealand before the Aussies arrive.

Still, he knows how to get away from it all – down on the farm run by his wife's family where Cook is much at home these days.

"It's the challenge all captains have and all players have," he said before the First Test commenced.

"I have found a good balance between my home life and my cricket life. I do have a total switch-off at home. That gives me an advantage because I'm not sitting at home doing nothing. Obviously on the farm it just gets me away from cricket so when I do come to cricket I can give it my full attention."

He will need every ounce of it between now and next January.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas