Sack Alastair Cook? If anyone can sort England's problems, it's him

Comment

For Alastair Cook, batting has become a constant trial. Not that he has been doing much of it lately. His miserable form has been matched by that of his beleaguered team.

Cook has batted 38 times since his last one-day hundred, during which he has scored eight fifties without reaching 80. In eight innings this season he has faced a mere 318 balls. England, who he has led for more than three years, are being battered from pillar to post and are well into the return journey.

To add injury to insult, Ian Bell has been ruled out of Friday's fifth one-day international with a small fracture to his left big toe.

There is a perceptible crescendo in the calls for Cook’s removal, by resignation, sacking or possibly Act of Parliament. These are accompanied by equally strident suggestions for changes in strategy and probably players. Throw in the young’uns always was the panacea for losing teams.

It is unarguable that England’s performances have been wretched. But Cook is going nowhere – in the sense, that is, of departing the job – as he was going nowhere earlier this summer when equally vociferous demands were being made for him to be deprived, preferably by humane means, of the Test captaincy.

The time for England’s selectors to distance themselves from Cook, if ever they wanted to do it, was in 2011 before he was elevated to the one-day captaincy. He had taken no part in the recent World Cup, which had ended conventionally for England, in disastrous failure, or in the first-choice team for nearly three years. That was when England could – perhaps should – have taken a view.

Yet Cook, for a little while, demonstrated why his critics were wrong. He developed a style that was positively not pretty but was earnestly effective. He took his scoring rate well above 80 runs per 100 balls. It worked for England as well. Two years ago, it may not be remembered during the present crisis, England became the No 1-ranked 50-over team in the world. A year after that, they reached the final of the Champions Trophy.

It has all unravelled since then. Cook’s form, the way he looks as a batsman, has visibly deteriorated. Since being ambushed by Australia after the Ashes debacle, the team have lost the plot.

If England were to opt for change now this close to the World Cup, which starts next February, it would be an admission not only that the last three years were a waste but that the new regime, when it was fully instated in the spring, was misguided as well. Even if that leap were possible, there would be the question of who would take over.

It is true of England cricket captains, as it is of prime ministers and cricket correspondents, that there is always somebody else ready and willing to do the job. But in this case, the viable replacement, Eoin Morgan, is suffering a horrendous trot of his own. His place is no longer as assured as it was and were that to continue for, say, another five innings, he would need to be replaced as well.

In extremis, a state which some observers suggest has been reached, the selectors could opt for Joe Root, who is still finding his way, or James Vince, who has never played for England but has had some success in leading Hampshire’s Twenty20 side. There is indeed always someone else but it is equally wise to be careful of what you wish for. If anybody can turn this round, Cook can.

England are being castigated too for their approach to one-day cricket, as if it was something from the dark ages, or at least the 1990s. But it was working pretty well two years ago as they won five and drew one series out of seven.

Part of the problem with England’s one-day cricket is Test cricket, just as part of the problem with India’s Test cricket is one-day cricket. It has little to do with the composition of the sides.

The pundits are almost united in their belief in that England have the wrong personnel, that they are bringing a Test match mindset to the limited-overs forum. But other countries – South Africa, India and Australia only to a slightly lesser extent – select many or most of the same players for both forms.

Take India. Of the players now duffing up England, eight played in the ill-fated recent Test series. Of South Africa’s XI, nine regularly duplicate both formats. Australia are more proficient and precise at resting and rotation than others but up to eight players could appear in the preferred team for an Ashes Test match or a World Cup final.

At its heart, there may be an unpalatable reason for England’s general uselessness at one-day cricket, which applies also to India’s less successful Test results. In this country Test cricket is still the definitive form, the Ashes above all.

Cook, a little half-heartedly, rejected this assertion in the wake of the hammering at Edgbaston – “you should be in that dressing room” – but in the same way India have forgotten their abject Test form because of this one-day result. There may, after all, then be a case for two different England teams. In the meantime they need one for Headingley on Friday.

Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
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

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect