On perhaps his most difficult day as a cricketer, at least Alastair Cook was able to console himself that his employers would like him to continue as England captain.
A 5-0 Ashes whitewash, only the third in England’s history, is hardly the result to invite faith in your leadership, but luckily for Cook the hierarchy at the England and Wales Cricket Board are convinced he is the right man to head the rebuilding job. He revealed he had learned the news via the ECB’s online app, rather than through a conversation, but it has been clear for some time that the top brass want Cook to stay.
England’s latest defeat was as pitiful as it was inevitable. Australia needed just 31.4 overs to bowl out the tourists for 166, completing a 281-run victory. As dejected as he was, Cook remains determined to stay in charge, although he admitted he would consider resignation if results do not improve next summer, when Sri Lanka and India tour England.
“I’ve been given the vote of confidence by the board, which, in football terms, normally means you have two weeks before you’re on your bike,” Cook joked. “I’m desperate to turn it around and I feel I’m the right man for the job.
“I’ve always said it’s down to results. If I feel my position in the side is not justified for the amount of runs I score, and I don’t feel I’m the right man for the job, then I’ll resign. I’m very proud to be England captain, it is a huge honour and not something I take for granted.
“I have a lot of experience as a player. I’ve seen a 5-0 defeat before [in 2006-07]. And I’ve seen the drive and determination that that caused in a certain number of players. I know what that takes. So when you strip everything down, every single player needs to go away and have a look at himself. That hunger and desire has to come from within.”
Former England captain Nasser Hussain warned Cook he has some tough questions to answer if he is to continue in the role. Hussain could barely contain his anger on Sunday, and questioned Cook’s decision-making and his authority over the team.
“Over this series, he has been completely and utterly out-captained by Michael Clarke,” Hussain said. “He hasn’t learnt one iota from first game to last. The field settings, the plans – when Brad Haddin comes in, they go to short stuff – England haven’t learnt a single thing. It’s been absolutely abysmal.”
Attention will also turn to future of the coach, Andy Flower. David Collier, the chief executive of the ECB, has already made it clear that he would like Flower to stay.
Flower has already held one round of talks with Paul Downton, the incoming managing director of England cricket, to discuss the future and it is thought they will meet again in the coming days.
It is clear where Cook stands on the matter. “I hope Andy is with us,” he said. “His record suggests he is a fantastic coach, he is a great man and his heart is in it. In my eyes, stability breeds success.”
There is another route. After losing 4-0 in India and following a poor display in last summer’s Champions Trophy, Australia dispensed with Mickey Arthur and brought in Darren Lehmann as coach. They lost 3-0 in England but less than five months later they have regained the urn in the most emphatic manner.
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