Outside the sun is shining on Lord’s and the mowers are cutting an outfield that already looks immaculate. Inside, in the England & Wales Cricket Board’s offices, the talk is of contrasting new arrivals, one of whom is interrupting Alastair Cook’s nights, the other whose aim is to enable the England captain to sleep more soundly.
If two-week-old Elsie, Cook’s first child, has helped put a torrid winter down under into perspective the appointment of Peter Moores as England’s new coach is intended to make the next Ashes series a less gruelling experience.
Cook is as captivated by fatherhood as any new parent. “Being a dad is best thing you can do, it’s very exciting. Parenthood changes things a lot. The word perspective is used and I think over time that word will get used more and more as Elsie grows and you watch her develop. You look at her and think of the life she will have in front of her, you just don’t know, so you end up thinking more about her than yourself.”
But, as he says, “I also have a job to do, which is one I’m very proud of, and we have an opportunity now to try and start again and rebuild.”
So between occasional nappy-changing he has been working on his batting – for a skipper who has always led by example the winter’s sub-25 average was damaging - and his captaincy.
Specifically he has been discussing leadership with Andy Flower, Moores’ predecessor, who is now technical director of elite cricket, and Steve Bull, the sports psychologist who has long worked with the England team. This week he will extend this circle of advisors to Moores beginning with dinner one evening during Essex’s match with Surrey at The Oval.
If Moores has ‘history’ of the wrong sort with Kevin Pietersen his previous experiences with Cook have generally been positive.
“When I heard it was Mooresy I was really excited by it,” said Cook. “I've got on really well with Peter, not only the time when he was England coach [from 2007-09] but we did quite a lot of work at the Academy together before that, so I've known Mooresy since about 2005. I think he's a really good coach, a brilliant coach in fact, and a really good person.”
It was while touring the West Indies under Moores with the England Lions that Cook’s Test career started, Moores recommending him to Duncan Fletcher when England suddenly needed an opener in India. Cook flew from Antigua to Nagpur, made a century on debut, and has barely missed a Test match since.
Moores’ accession to the senior team was not as successful with several senior players saying he was too much ‘in your face’, but Cook said he had no such issues with him “maybe because I was a younger player in the side”. Cook added: “A lot of those senior players had grown up with Duncan Fletcher as their England coach and their [coaching] styles at that time were very, very different.
“I think, as he's said, he would have improved as a coach over the five years he's been with Lancashire and I don't think it's any coincidence he's the only guy to win the Championship with two different sides. That's the measure of his success as a coach and building a side up from scratch, which is kind of where we are now with the new era.”
While Cook was not part of the selection panel that appointed Moores he was, he says, “consulted throughout the process” by Paul Downton, the managing director, England cricket, who led the search. “I'm sure we pretty much sing off the same hymn sheet, otherwise I don't think he would have been appointed,” said Cook.
At his unveiling Moores stressed a desire to play attractive cricket. Cook has been criticised as a defensive-minded captain but indicated he had fresh ideas that, now Moores had been appointed, he could begin to put into practice.
“We have been in limbo the last couple of months. I came back from Australia, devastated with what had happened, and you start to think about how to turn things around. You have a lot of ideas, talk to a lot of people, but can’t actually follow through until the head coach came in. I can now pick up the phone and talk cricket [to Moores].
“I certainly think I inherited a side from Straussy [Andrew Strauss] and Flower, and now it does seem a bit of a clean break.
“As Peter said, we want to make people proud of the way we go about our business. It is results-driven, we know that, but [we can look at] the way we communicate with the public. The England rugby team has evolved particularly well and it would be wrong not to look at the way they've done that. That kind of stuff, the Englishness, the legacy you want to leave behind of the culture we want to create.”
Cook has begun the season well personally, making 181 for Essex against Derbyshire last week. “I’ve had time to work on my game technically which you don’t normally get and have really enjoyed it. The proof is in the pudding - I’ve scored some runs.”
If Cook can return to doing the same for England he and Moores will already be well on the way to erasing the winter’s bitter memories.
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