England v Sri Lanka: Enough is enough - Alastair Cook bites back at Shane Warne’s snipes

The England captain believes much of the criticism from the outspoken Australian is personal – and has to stop

headingley

Finally, Alastair Cook has had enough. After years of sniping, barbs and general derision about his captaincy of England he responded to the latest round with an air of puzzlement and hurt.

It may or may not repel his critics and he must know that the latter is the more probable. Cook could take the England team to No 1 in the world, recapture and retain the Ashes, field five slips, a gully, a short leg and silly point with a mid-wicket for good measure for most of the day in most Tests, then win the World Cup and still be disparaged for negativity, reactivity and inactivity by his critics among the pundits, led by the Australian Shane Warne. He went so far as to say, without expanding, that he thought some of the criticism was personal.

Cook did his usual round of interviews with the media ahead of the second Investec Test against Sri Lanka, which begins at Headingley on Friday. He had spoken to the newspapers and explained there were always different ways of looking at tactics.

“It’s trying to get the best result at the end of the day,” Cook said. “Everyone will have a different view from it. That’s cricket. I’m doing it the way that feels right to me on the pitch and that is the end of it.”

However, between then and his usual pre-match discussion with Jonathan Agnew of the BBC’s Test Match Special, his attitude hardened. Cook may as well have watched Howard Beale in Network, saying: “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more.”

Asked what he thought of the latest criticism, with champion leg-spinner turned agitator Warne particularly voluble after England’s tense draw at Lord’s when most of the anti-Cook sentiment was aimed at the lateness of the England declaration, Cook said: “Something needs to be done because for the three years that I’ve been England captain I have, in my eyes, been criticised for a hell of a lot of that time.

Former leg-spinner Shane Warne has been particularly vocal in slamming Cook’s captaincy as negative Former leg-spinner Shane Warne has been particularly vocal in slamming Cook’s captaincy as negative (Getty Images)
“Yes, when we lose games of cricket as captain, you will be criticised. But I’ve also won a lot of games of cricket for England and more one-day games than anybody as England captain. I’ve won an Ashes, I’ve won in India away, and that’s what I’m very proud of.

“So to be criticised for three years totally with those results I find quite hard to take, to be honest with you. Support and positivity is what this England team needs. The crowd at Lord’s were brilliant and the public were fantastic behind the lads and they really drove off it. A bit more support like that will hold everyone in good stead.”

He was asked if it sounded almost personal and replied: “Yeah, I think it is.” Cook’s problems recently have been compounded by his own lack of runs. There can be no more potent combination for pundits seeking to undermine a captain than poor team results and personal lack of form.

Cook appears to have surrendered any hope that more runs would relieve the pressure on his leadership. “It probably won’t change anything, which is sad but hopefully for the good of this England side it will,” he said.

It is 22 innings since Cook made a Test hundred, though 20 of those have been played against a rampant Australia attack. England have not won any of their past seven Tests matches and lost the Ashes 5-0 in Australia during the winter.

Warne has constantly criticised Cook’s captaincy for its largely defensive mood and last November he called for Cook to be replaced by either Kevin Pietersen or Graeme Swann, both of whom are no longer part of the England set-up.

The regular Ashes tormentor was scathing when Cook did not declare England’s second innings at Lord’s sometime on the fourth afternoon. In the event, England were just one wicket short of claiming victory on the final day.

Under Cook, England  have won nine and lost six of their 22 matches, a lower  winning proportion than two of the more recent incumbents, Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss, but greater than most of the present cast of pundits including Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain and David Gower.

Doubtless, he is aware that he needs to start winning soon. It is clear that he is responding to some of the scrutiny by deliberately coming up with unconventional field settings.

There is no point at all in his speaking to Warne, who may feel he is shooting from the hip but is a paid pundit doing that job to perfection. Cook may learn far more in how and what England need by speaking to obviously sound judges like Hussain, whom he knows well from Essex. Surprise, surprise, he did just that a few days ago at a benefit match.There is a perception, not yet shrugged off under the new regime, that England are still too insular and impervious both to advice and criticism. The truth of the matter is that former captains and players may well have wisdom and advice to impart and even if they have not, keeping them on side might be advisable.

The difficulty with that, of course, that so many are making their living out of giving opinions and comments in public. They cannot expect to have it all ways. Equally Cook, resolute of mind though he is, has to recognise that no captain is an island.

His last hundred was at Headingley a year ago, against New Zealand when the landscape looked different. It was the last of a sequence of five centuries in 16 innings, since when a combination of Australia and the cares of the job have got to him.

England persevered at Lord’s in a match that did not come to life until the last day. If it was triumph for the entity of Test cricket, it would be as well if Leeds provided more round-the-clock appeal. The pitch certainly looks more lively and that should encourage England, who have the superior bowlers.

Lurking behind all England do at present is the lack of a spinner, which could come to affect them deeply before too long. For now, they can rub along without one and, especially if Cook contributes at last, they should have too much for the summer’s first tourists. If not, the  questions and the barbs will only increase.

Headingley details: Second Test preview

Probable teams:

England A N Cook (capt), S D Robson, G S Ballance, I R Bell, J E Root, M M Ali, M J Prior (wkt), C J Jordan, L E Plunkett, S C J Broad, J M Anderson.

Sri Lanka A D Mathews  (capt), J K Silva, F D M Karunaratne, K C Sangakkara, D P M D S Jayawardene, H D R L Thirimanne, L D Chandimal (wkt), K M D N Kulasekara,  H M R K B Herath, R M S Eranga, A N P R Pradeep.

Umpires S Davis (Aus) & B Bowden (NZ).

Pitch report With a covering of grass and some pace and carry, it may make for a spicy encounter. England’s bowlers will be encouraged to be aggressive and spin should barely feature.

TV Friday, 10.30am-6.45pm, Sky Sports 2 (Highlights 7pm, Channel Five).

Weather Early sunshine gives way to cloud by lunchtime. Maximum temperature: 21C.

News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
Sport
Sean Abbott
cricketSean Abbott is named Australia's young cricketer of the year
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
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
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea