Peter Moores insists Alastair Cook is right man for the England captaincy
The team have gone eight Tests without a win, a sequence unrivalled since the dark days of the mid-1990s
England are desperate for Alastair Cook to succeed as England captain. Their fervour is matched only by Cook's desire to continue doing the job. It is to that extent a marriage made in heaven.
If only it were that elementary, if only their determination to live happily ever after were not susceptible to capricious external influences like form and results. Cook and Peter Moores handled themselves with measured dignity in the wake of the match and series defeat by Sri Lanka at Headingley. England might have gone down in the second Investec Test but they went down fighting, taking the contest to the penultimate ball.
Both men were so calmly impressive that it would have been easy to avoid the harsh conclusion that Cook's job is on the line. His side have lost two successive series, in Australia by 5-0 and, equally unexpectedly, 1-0 at home to Sri Lanka.
Cook's team have gone eight Tests without a win, a sequence unrivalled since the dark days of the mid-1990s, even if it is some way short of the 18 winless matches spanning 1987 and 1988.
Cook's form continues to go south. He scored a hundred in the second Test against New Zealand last May, since when he has played 24 Test innings and scored 601 runs at an average of 25.04. In the two matches against Sri Lanka it was below 20.
Rumours have been circulating that Cook intended to pack it all in. But after the result at Headingley he made it clear he wanted to carry on. "I'm no quitter," he said.
Moores was as candid as he could be, considering some of the discussions that must have taken place between them privately. They might not have reached the stage of quitting but the form which is inextricably connected with the job will certainly have arisen.
"I've got to take Alastair as I find him and he's a very determined, steely bloke," Moores said. "He's got a clear picture of what he wants and how the team should operate.
"Because it doesn't always operate like that at the start, the key here is to see it for what it is and we're going to get to where we want to get to, and not to go away from what it is we're trying to get to. We've got to keep driving that home. Normally it would be rare to say, 'We're going to pick a team and it's going to work brilliantly straight away'.
"There are areas where we have got to get better."
Nobody should underestimate Cook's steadfastness. Towards the end of the winter in Australia, when he had been away from home a long time, he had doubts. There may have been fleeting occasions in the last few weeks when he thought it may not be worth it. With a new baby at home and a second career, farming, about which he is almost as passionate as cricket, he might have thought there were options where the scrutiny would not be so pervasive.
But Moores, for one, claimed to have spotted no signs of frailty. He wants Cook to stay, however long it takes for results to start turning.
"Where Alastair is at as a captain, he has had a very tough six or seven months," Moores said. "He knows that and I can only assess where he is at as a person. He is still clear with what he wants, he is still driven to do the job, which says something about his determination to get on and do it, so I think he is the right man.
"I think we are starting to get to know each other. I knew him from before but we have to redefine that relationship and how it works best for the team. With new players coming in we have to redefine what we are as a team and how we play our cricket, so that is all going on. Two Tests in, it is early, but that doesn't mean we are not trying to drive it as fast as we can because we are."
Everybody has an opinion on whether the captaincy affects the batting or the batting affects the captaincy. The truth is they simply cannot be mutually exclusive, as all the former captains from whom Cook is being urged to seek advice are saying. The soundest advice, however, will be imparted to him in private.
"That's the million dollar question," said Moores. "If he gets himself into form someone is going to pay."
Moores also correctly pointed out that if the vultures were circling in some quarters, they were also being ushered away from other places.
"I have felt there's also a lot of support for him," he said. "People see he's a solid Englishman who wants to do well for his country. He's done that in the past and will in the future. I think he's felt that it and that's a good thing."
England have invested so much in Cook that there is no turning back now, or even turning sideways to Ian Bell. Some of the recommendations have been unhelpful – Giles Clarke, the England and Wales Cricket Board chairman, might have phrased his encomium on Cook being the right kind of chap more delicately – but the will for this liaison to work is immense.
Good things have come out of England in the last fortnight, especially centuries from new boys Gary Ballance, Sam Robson and Moeen Ali, whose 108 not out was one of the memorable backs-to-the-wall operations. But England lost to Sri Lanka at home. Cook's team simply cannot afford a repeat against India because a messy quickie divorce would then be inevitable.
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