Head to head: Should Cook resign as England Captain?

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–YES– Erik Apter

As a sports fan I am not a fan of statistics, I feel at times they can distort the truth and flatter to deceive; this one time however, I think statistics tell exactly the story that should be told:

Runs scored: Aus 3189, Eng 2158
Wkts lost: Aus 77, Eng 100
100s scored: Aus 10, Eng 1

These damning statistics accurately display how abysmal England were in a whitewash defeat that is infinitely worse than the one suffered in 2006/07. Alistair Cook and Andy Flower are rightfully the two in the firing line for the whole fiasco, which leads to the question, should Cook resign as captain? Although not a easy decision to make by any stretch of the imagination, I believe Cook should step down.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Alistair Cook. Cook is one of the most talented batsmen in world cricket and when on form is arguably the best opener in the world. Any batsman who can get to 8000 runs in his career before the great Sachin Tendulkar should rightly be considered a word class batsman, but here’s the thing – a great player doesn’t make a great captain. Cook is not a great captain.

When it was announced that Cook would be replacing Strauss as England captain I was over the moon and convinced that they’d made the right decision – not just because he was now captain Cook either. Cook looked the natural choice for the captaincy, he’d been a staple of Strauss’ successful England side as well as being his opening partner so I was sure that he was being groomed in advance for the role by Strauss and Flower. Perhaps this was the case, but I’m afraid it just hasn’t worked out for Cook.

The most frustrating thing from my point of view is how the runs have dried up since becoming captain, as once again the statistics back me up perfectly. Since becoming captain, Cook has averaged over 40 only once in a series and has struggled badly in the last year with his form. One of my favorite memories in Cricket was staying up late in 2010/11 to watch Cook decimate the Australian attack, scoring huge hundreds as the Australians had no idea to get him out. In that series, Cook scored a mammoth 766 runs in just five tests, this time around he managed a measly 246. Over 500 runs less this time on the same pitches against most of the same bowlers, that’s not good enough and Cook will be first to admit it.

His batting woes are just the tip of the iceberg though as Cook’s captaincy has been called into question on the field. Unimaginative field placings, misuse of bowlers and a serious lack of a plan B are all valid arguments against England’s captain since at Test match level cricket, these things all count.

Micheal Vaughn like Cook, struggled with his batting once he became captain, but he could be forgiven since he was always on his game when in the field. Strauss and Flower seem to have had a symbiotic relationship where they were always on the same wavelength with each other. Cook does not seem to posses any of these qualities and there is little other than a tour of India and a less than convincing Ashes win to prove otherwise.

It would be foolish to blame England’s woes entirely at the hands of Cook, our Batsmen failed, our bowlers failed and Flower should take just as much responsibility as Cook. This also culminates in the fact that Cook has had little chance to build his own side and there is now a major rebuilding job because of that. There is also the worrying point that if Cook goes, who else could possibly step in as captain?

This however, does not change my stance.

Alistair Cook should go back to basics and do what he does best, what he was put on the earth to do, score a shed load of runs.

–NO– Ben Ingham

To be quite frank, the notion of removing Alistair Cook as captain is absurd to me: this isn’t football, you don’t go chopping and changing the captain as you please. Cook isn’t the most positive captain when it comes to field changes, but if your bowlers are bowling well and your batters are scoring runs, you don’t need wacky field placings. Shane Warne has been quick to credit Michael Clarke with his ‘aggressive’ captaincy style; sticking two mid wickets in to Kevin Pietersen isn’t great captaincy at all; it’s stupid batting from one of England’s senior players. My girlfriend who thinks DRS is a disease could set that field to Pietersen. Cook’s captaincy is much like his batting: calm, collected, not flashy by any means, but it gets the job done. His management of integrating that aforementioned walking ego (Pietersen) back into the team following ‘Text-Gate’ during South Africa’s last visit here. The role of a captain in cricket, especially international cricket, is so huge it can bring the best out of you, but it can and will eventually ruin you. Not only do you effectively manage your team on the field for five days, it’s the off field management that’s so vital with a cricket captain. Containing all the egos, knowing when someone needs a word in their ear, or knowing when not to say something to someone, it’s an art that few are blessed with: and that’s just the off field aspect. Mike Brearley, is undoubtedly one of England’s best captains in my eyes; his man management was world class especially his influence over Ian Botham, but he wasn’t good enough to be in the team as a player – Cook is.

I will admit, Cook has not only been out of form for this Ashes series, but also the previous series in England. But any player who struggles against a bowling attack is unlikely to turn around that form if you’re thrust against the same opposition less than three months later are they?

With England struggling with the ball, Cook spent hour after hour in the field, then had to go out and open the batting – a job which requires more concentration than many are capable of doing anyway.

Picking Joe Root in the summer and dispatching of Nick Compton, only to play ‘musical batting positions’ with him to the point where he is dropped from the last test is embarrassing. The selectors dug the grave for Cook and his men when they excluded Compton, Onions, and Taylor from the tour.

All the batsmen have to be under scrutiny and only Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes seem to have come out of this tour in any kind of positive light. Blaming Cook because the batsmen failed and the bowlers bowled badly isn’t fair. The people calling for his head are probably the same ones who called for KP to be axed and then welcomed him back when he tore India apart last year.

If you’re still struggling to forgive ‘Chef’ for his failings in the last few months, then I ask you this: who do you bring in as captain?

Pietersen is a walking stick of dynamite, just waiting to go off in the England dressing room. Ian Bell has had a torrid series compared to the summer and has never been considered even for the vice captaincy role, so he must be crossed off the list.

Joe Root has to focus on securing a place in the team, as does Michael Carberry if they persist with him. Matt Prior cannot buy a run after being named England’s player of the year last spring.

That leaves James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Anderson, I think we can all agree, has too be rested for a while while Stuart Broad’s hot headed temper must rule him out also (not to mention his terrible use of the DRS system). There is no viable alternative.

Cook is not ‘the best of a bad bunch’ he’s the best man for the job. Full stop.

Erik Apter

SCAN Assistant Editor 2014-15

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