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

Dunedin

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.

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Life & Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers