Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Even after Sri Lanka took an unassailable 4-2 lead in the ongoing seven-match ODI series, England captain Alastair Cook still believes he should continue captaining the national team.
Cook has also failed with the bat once again as he has only managed to score 87 runs in five matches at a dismal average of 17.40.
“It’s tough at the moment – not scoring the runs I’d like is not a great place to be as a captain,” Cook said. “You want to lead from the front, and when it’s not happening for you it is incredibly frustrating.
“I’m a better player than I’m showing at the moment, and I’ve just got to keep going.”
During the sixth ODI in Pallekele, Cook also endured a torrid day on the field as he dropped Sri Lanka wicketkeeper-batsman Kumar Sangakkara at mid-off on 41. It proved to be a costly mistake as Sangakkara went on to score 112.
“Days like these don’t make the job any easier,” Cook said. “It was obviously the turning point because I thought our first 24 overs or so were probably the best we’ve bowled on this tour.
“There’s no hiding place. It was a catch which I would take more times than not.”
Speaking about Cook, Sangakkara noted that the England captain “needs to relax and get on with the job”.
“It’s never a question of ability,” Sangakkara said. “I think he just needs to relax and get on with the job – because without a doubt, he’s a fantastic player.
“I’ve had these patches; everyone in cricket has. But things always come good if you work hard and prepare well. When it turns, Alastair is a guy who will make that count.”
However, legendary England all-rounder Sir Ian Botham disagreed with Sangakkara’s view since he feels that not only should Cook be stripped of the captaincy, but he should not be included in the World Cup squad as well.
“With [head coach Peter] Moores saying that we review everything at the end of a series, then I would say it is not as nailed down as it appeared two or three weeks ago. Maybe there is going to be a bit more thought,” Botham said. “But at the moment there is just no way that you could play Alastair Cook in the World Cup. He’s just all at sea.
“He dropped that catch and the way that he was dismissed, the way he almost accepted it as a matter of fact and walked off made me think I’m not sure that’s right. It’s affecting the captaincy and there’s a lot to be considered.
“Is Cook one of the best one-day players in the English game? I think the answer is no. But at the end of the day if you go to the World Cup, surely you’ve got to be playing your best available team?”
However, ex-England pace bowler Bob Willis believes that the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will not pull the plug on Cook’s captaincy just yet, especially since they have invested a lot of time and faith in the 29-year-old.
“I don’t think the door is closed on a possible change at the top, but it would be very unlike the ‘new England’ under managing director Paul Downton if they did jettison the captain,” Willis said. “They’ve got to think very long and hard about that.
“Yes, Stuart Broad and James Anderson are coming back from injury and you’ve got Alex Hales and Ian Bell in reserve as batsmen but you can’t have your captain misfiring as badly as he has been doing. So that is a tough decision and clearly minds haven’t been made up yet.”
But, Cook’s team-mate Matt Prior is confident that the England captain will bounce back and regain his touch with the bat sooner rather than later.
“I really feel for Cookie right now,” he said. “I read an article yesterday about the loneliness of professional sport – the fact that you are up there on a pedestal and sometimes when you are in this position it is a very, very lonely place to be.
“Alastair Cook will be hurting more than any one of those England boys. Yes, he didn’t score runs again but the dropped catch – for me there is only one reason you drop a catch like that, and that’s because you’re thinking about a million and one other things.
“No-one has a divine right to play for England – whether you are a captain, whether you’ve played 100 or two games; you need to perform, you need to score runs and Alastair Cook hasn’t scored runs for a period of time now. Yes, he is working as hard as he possibly can but ultimately it’s what you do in the middle that counts.”