Cook out to make critics eat words

 

Abu Dhabi

For Alastair Cook the moment of truth may already be at hand. Not a year into his captaincy of England's one-day team, three years before the next World Cup in which it is intended he should lead them, and it is becoming clearer that if he wants job security he should become Health Secretary.

Some time in the desert during the next fortnight he has to guide his team to an oasis where victory lies. If England capitulate for the second time this winter, the scrutiny under which Cook has found himself since being appointed last spring may become too much to bear for selectors, management and the man himself.

England have four one-day internationals against Pakistan, beginning in Abu Dhabi today, and it is imperative that they not only contrive to win at least one but to compete on something like an equal footing in the others. In some ways this is grossly unfair, in others it is merely a manifestation of the prejudice which has accompanied Cook's role since his appointment.

Cook has never gained full acceptance, at least outside the dressing room, either as captain or as one-day batsman. There remains the suspicion, well-founded or not, that he was made captain of the one-day team when Andrew Strauss stood down, as a kind of grooming process for the Test team.

This has happened before – Michael Vaughan was briefly in charge of the limited-overs side before ascending to glory. In the view of sceptics, Cook's prime defect is his batting: just not up to speed, so to speak, in the ODI arena.

The statistical evidence is all in Cook's favour. He has reinvented himself as a short-form batsman. In the early days, when England were still in the one-day dark ages, neither he nor they had a clue. Limited of shot and strategy, he poked around, averaging 32 with a strike rate of 68.

But since taking over the side permanently last June, Cook has scored more runs than any of the other batsmen (600, 82 ahead of Jonathan Trott) at a greater average (46.15, three points ahead of Trott and Eoin Morgan) at a tidy lick of 93.17. His scoring rate is behind Craig Kieswetter and Eoin Morgan, but ahead of Kevin Pietersen.

Perception is not always reality. If Cook's scoring areas are limited he has made them his own and he has never wasted power plays. Perhaps he is a one-day batsman after a fashion but it is not as out of fashion as some would make out.

As a captain, Cook is not of the inspirational kind. He cannot quite shake the idea that he does it by numbers. When England were being walloped 5-0 by India last October he occasionally looked at a loss.

This view was reinforced when Graeme Swann took over the Twenty20 captaincy in an emergency at the end of that ill-starred tour. There was immediately a vibrancy about the team and the sense of a captain who looked as though he knew what he was doing.

Swann and Cook are mates, but Swann may inadvertently have damaged Cook's standing as captain. In his book, The Breaks Are Off, Swann alluded to Cook's stuttering team talks (which seemed reminiscent of his well-intended but not always fluent press briefings) in a way that suggested the troops were not exactly foaming at the mouth and ready for action after them. Cook's position may well take some heat off Pietersen in the next few days. Pietersen has been elevated to open the batting in the fervent hope that it will make him the player he once was and perhaps he never will be again.

Teams for today's first ODI, at the Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi (start 11am GMT)

England (from): A N Cook (captain), K P Pietersen, I J L Trott, R S Bopara, E J G Morgan, C Kieswetter (wkt), S R Patel, T T Bresnan, S C J Broad, G P Swann, S T Finn, J W Dernbach, J M Bairstow, D R Briggs

Pakistan (from): Misbah-ul-Haq (Captain), M Hafeez, I Farhat, Y Khan, A Shafiq, S Afridi, U Akmal (wkt), W Riaz, S Ajmal, A Rehman, U Gul, S Malik, A Ali

Umpires S Taufel (Aus) and A Raza (Pak).

News
people

Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas
film
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tv

First full-length look is finally here

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Turner performing at 93 Feet East
musicReview: 93 Feet East, London
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Extras
indybest
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee