Whitaker backs Cook as ODI captain

"We believe we have a unique leader and a unique person and that should not be underestimated"

“We believe we have a unique leader and a unique person and that should not be underestimated”

Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo

England national selector James Whitaker believes Alastair Cook is the right person to be captaining the country’s ODI team.

Cook has been heavily criticised after England’s 3-1 loss to India in the recent five-match ODI series. In fact, many pundits and former players have suggested that Cook should stop playing ODIs altogether or give up the captaincy in order to focus on his batting.

However, while the national selectors fully support Cook, they will want to see some positive results when England tour Sri Lanka for a seven-match ODI series in November. This is due to the fact that the national team have not won a bilateral ODI series since they beat New Zealand in early 2013.

After losing bilateral ODI series against New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka and India, it comes as no surprise to see England in fifth place on the International Cricket Council (ICC) ODI team rankings.

But, despite England’s ODI struggles, Whitaker feels that it is only a matter of time before Cook and the rest of the ODI team break out of their dormant state and start winning series.

“Leadership is unique and it takes time to develop. We believe Alastair still has the skills, the drive and enthusiasm, which are all great qualities, to instil the right direction and control of the players,” Whitaker said. “He’s fully respected within the group and, more than anything, we believe he is a very constant person.

“The highs and lows he’s have over the last 12 months: it takes a unique sense of will to come through that. To keep getting up when you’re knocked constantly and to show a degree of humbleness when you’re doing well is unique in any leadership. We believe we have a unique leader and a unique person and that should not be underestimated.

“Alastair is learning still, of course, and doesn’t always get it right. But he gets it right a lot. He has some good senior players who can help him and advise him. But we still believe he will it right the majority of the time.”

With the World Cup less than five months away, Whitaker pointed out that Cook and the rest of the top order have to start building on their good starts since the national team will have to score 300 on a regular basis if they want to have a successful World Cup campaign.

In addition to that, Cook has not managed to score 80 runs in has last 40 ODI innings, which is a major problem for England since he, as an opener, is supposed to set the tone for the match.

“There are two or three senior players who know that, while getting 30 or 40 is just average, they need to get scores beyond 80,” Whitaker said. “We still feel we have those senior players in that team who can achieve that. We’re very confident they can.

“We need a base and Alastair, batting at No.1, can create that base. If he can concentrate working hard on his game – which we believe he is capable of doing – he can form the partnership at the top of the order that give us a good chance of winning games of one-day cricket.”

Whitaker also sees no reason as to why England cannot score between 280 and 300 on a regular basis, especially since they have a range of batsmen with “different styles of batting”.

With Alex Hales providing a lot of firepower at the top of the order, England can bank on Ian Bell and Eoin Morgan to stabilise the innings should things go wrong, while wicketkeeper Jos Buttler, batsman James Taylor and all-rounder Ravi Bopara can provide a late spark towards the end of the innings.

“We have flexible batsmen and you do need different styles of batting,” Whitaker said. “It would be wrong to throw six or seven bashers out there. We have to have a subtle blend that gets us to 280-300 and beyond. And also to chase down scores like that. There needs to be an improvement from every position in the batting order.”

Interestingly enough, Whitaker stated that he didn’t believe Jason Roy was ready to make his ODI debut, which is the reason why he has been included in the performance squad that will tour Sri Lanka as well. Roy, who plays for Surrey, made his Twenty20 debut in the one-off Twenty20 International against India, but failed to impress as he only scored eight runs.

“We have talked about him and he played for the Lions in the tri-series in the middle of the summer,” Whitaker said. “He got one fifty. We believe he could be the future of one-day cricket but just at the moment we believe we have a good balance of freshness and experience in our batting group. But he is in the performance programme squad as is James Vince. So he is very much in our thoughts for the future.”

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