James Lawton: Captain Alastair Cook's first voyage reveals new world to conquer

England dismissed fears about their brief occupancy of No 1 ranking on this tour

Jonathan Trott's idiosyncrasies apart, England could scarcely have scored a more profound moral and practical victory in India. And even he reminded us with his eighth Test century that when you pack away all of his foibles, some of which might turn a contemplative monastery into a riot scene, there is still a Test cricketer of immense competitive weight.

There is also another point which surely rises above the irritations caused by Trott's apparent indifference to what used to be known deep in antiquity as the spirit of the game.

His vagueness over a catch that so plainly never was in the first Test was certainly not the most uplifting moment of a campaign led so magisterially by Alastair Cook. Nor was his swatting for four of the delivery that escaped the grip of Ravindra Jadeja as England tightened their own hold on a remarkable triumph in the subcontinent.

None of it, however, begins to match the flagrant disregard for the best interests of cricket at the highest level displayed by the game's most powerful – at least if bounding wealth is the measure – nation.

India's attempt to doctor the wickets entirely for their own benefit was hardly unique in the history of cricket but the policy had rarely been so blatantly enforced – or brilliantly dismantled by superior opposition. However, the greatest crime surely was the suspension of the Decision Review System.

This was nothing less than an act of recidivism. It stopped the clock and it created injustice not just for Cook, twice wrongly denied the chance to smash still more records, but also, and with extreme irony, cut down in the last Test the great new hope of Indian batting, Cheteshwar Pujara.

The latter mishap was poetic justice in quite epic form. It confirmed the tragic condition of the Indian Test team now that Rahul Dravid is gone and Sachin Tendulkar has become not a lot more than a fabulous memory.

While a vast amount of money is poured into the slam-bang investment of the Indian Premier League, there has been witless neglect of the team that so recently was ranked No 1 in the highest form of the game. That status was surrendered quite shambolically the summer before last in the trouncing by England and over the last few weeks we have seen more evidence of serious decline.

More than anything you have to believe it is the bad fruit of neglect. That certainly is the charge against the Indian board in the matter of DRS.

Its reservations about the degree of technical precision is patently absurd when you assess the degree of human error, especially by the hapless Kumar Dharmasena, that came in the wake of the decision to reject technology. Nor does it matter that India were as much the victim as England, most notably when in the first Test Cook profited hugely after escaping an entirely legitimate appeal.

Of course, this should not deflect us from any of the English glory. Cook not only hoarded runs, he grew before our eyes as a captain of instant gravitas. How this impression holds up in the coming Ashes collisions may not be the least fascination of the future, but rarely has the dual challenge of leadership and the maintenance of a new captain's own game been met so impressively.

Indeed, this was the tour when England dismissed fears that brief occupancy of the No 1 ranking was the beginning and the end of the briefest distinction. It marked not only the re-emergence of Kevin Pietersen as an integral part of the team's strength, but Monty Panesar's reassertion that he can with Graeme Swann form a consistently effective one-two spin combination when conditions suit.

Perhaps most encouraging of all was the reward for the England selectors when they made the bold decision to blood the young Yorkshireman Joe Root.

Coming out of his first Test with an average of 93 was remarkable enough. More striking still was the clear evidence that here was someone who might well walk with absolute calm into the footsteps of Geoff Boycott.

David Lloyd, whose brilliance as a TV analyst of perception and rich humour was undimmed by being so many thousands of miles away from the action, produced a superb parody of the old curmudgeon's advice to his fellow Tyke. "Give the bowlers nowt," were the words put into Boycott's mouth. Root suggested that such an instinct came with his mother's milk.

Ultimately, though, there was no question about the most encouraging aspect of England's historic success. It was the tour of Captain Cook, the time when he came of age not only as a leader of immense promise but a Test cricketer of the first rank. His predecessor Andrew Strauss could hardly have set a better tone, a more enduring example, but Cook's achievement is to make it look like a seamless transition.

England not only won with absolute conviction. They also gave an unremitting lesson to a great cricket nation in danger of a killing seduction by unbridled wealth.

Neville needs to grasp harsh realities and ask the difficult questions

Gary Neville's meteoric rise as TV's best football analyst this side of the worldly Graeme Souness has been marked by a sure-footed willingness to provide the hard professional insight.

Still, no one is perfect and it has to be said that his emotional onslaught at the weekend on all those who have dared question the position of Arsène Wenger was distinctly at odds with his reputation for grasping the realities of the business to which he has devoted so much of his life.

Here is the nub of his argument: "We should be applauding the fact that a club have had a manager for 16 years in a world in which divorce rates get ever higher, in which loyalty isn't valued and in which everyone demands everything instantly. Sensible football people should be defending Arsène Wenger and fighting for him to build another great team."

Defending Wenger's achievements is, of course, hardly a hardship but when Neville also says that football and the media should work more closely together he shouldn't forget, as someone with a foot in both camps, that there is a certain obligation to ask, from time to time, a few hard questions.

One missing from his latest argument is simple enough. Would any other great manager of an important club, from Pep Guardiola, through Jose Mourinho, to his old boss Sir Alex Ferguson, have survived eight years without any kind of trophy?

We can honour the meaning of Wenger's best work as long as we like, but we also have to look at the world as it is rather than how we would always like it to be. In the real world everyone knows the answer to that question. It is no. They would all have gone.

High time for City to part with Balotelli

Manchester City came back from the dead with a performance worthy of champions. Their football had both brilliance and fine professional application, and maybe Mario Balotelli's appeal against discipline imposed by the club might just provide another turning point.

It is surely time for manager Roberto Mancini to put aside his faith in a talented player who has proved incapable of responding to an extraordinary degree of faith and trust.

Moyes' 20/20 moral insight

Some say the Everton manager, David Moyes, had no option but to chastise severely the outrageous behaviour of his key player Marouane Fellaini.

But then how many of his co-workers would have added to the likelihood of a heavy punishment for such a vital performer quite so frankly?

How many cases of impaired eyesight or distracted attention might have occurred? Football isn't so rich in honesty that such a conspicuous example of it can be casually ignored.

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