England vs India comment: Captain Cook's ship is taking on water fast


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The Independent Online

It was not always so difficult for Alastair Cook. His first five Tests as captain yielded four centuries, three of them in tricky Indian conditions, as England claimed a historic series win.

Yet as he trudged his way back to the changing room, and what a forlorn walk it was – perhaps only Shane Watson can rival him in those stakes – there was a sense that something has to give for England’s skipper.

It has been 206 days since his last half-century, and 422 since his last 100 – a run of 15 games that equals his worst run of form way back in 2008-09.

But then he was simply an opener, unburdened by the strains of captaining not only a side in transition, but also one badly lacking contributions from its senior players.

You feel it can’t go on like this, with no runs and no wins for England, one of those would surely be enough, without both captain Cook’s ship is taking on water pretty fast.

But if not Cook then who? There is hardly a snarling pack of wolves scratching at the captain’s door, more a couple of mangy foxes struggling to break into a badly guarded henhouse.

Ian Bell, England’s senior batsman and a man with some captaincy experience for Warwickshire, should be an obvious candidate.

Except he is in the middle of his own horrible run of form with the bat, something that has gone relatively unnoticed thanks to Cook’s woes, and in fact not since his heroics in the 2013 Ashes has he reached three figures.

If you are going to lose one captain as a result of poor batting form, it seems the height of recklessness to replace him with a man sitting at the bottom of the same rut.

Also, the 2013 Ashes aside, there has been the sense throughout Bell’s career that he has at times struggled to always assert himself as the senior batsman he should be, so the captaincy crown would seem an uneasy fit.

Not so long ago Matt Prior would have perhaps been considered a candidate, a senior player who has been vice-captain of the side, he could have at least been in the running.

Now though he is a sad shadow of his former self, struggling to justify his place in the side with either bat or gloves, with lingering questions about his long-term fitness hanging over him as well. The next England captain he is not.

Stuart Broad then perhaps? Although he has relatively little captaincy experience, he already has the T20 reins, and is at least one of the first names on the teamsheet.

Andrew Strauss has spoken before about how he valued Broad’s input during his time as captain, praising his cricketing brain, but that aside you would probably find few who see him as a realistic candidate.

For many there have been too many displays of petulance, too many overblown appeals and selfish DRS reviews – not to mention recent embarrassing revelations about a fear of ghosts in the team hotel, although perhaps that was the spirit of cricket’s revenge.

On seniority perhaps James Anderson is next, but he is overworked already and anyway could find himself on the end of a ban, depending how the ICC view his Trent Bridge tiff with Ravi Jadeja.

There is then no obvious back-up candidate and that for England is perhaps as big a problem as any. It is all very well to kill the king, but a different proposition if you have no one to replace him.