‘I would be very surprised if’ Cook did not captain England during the World Cup, says Paul Downton

"He's the natural leader of that group of players"

“He’s the natural leader of that group of players”

Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo

England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) managing director Paul Downton has announced that he “would be very surprised” if Alastair Cook did not captain England during the 2015 World Cup.

Downton’s comments come after England lost their seven-match ODI series against Sri Lanka 5-2.

During that series, Cook only scored 119 runs at a dismal average of 19.83.

“He’s having a terrible time at the moment,” Downton said. “Nobody knows that more than him. Why do we still think he’s the best person for the job in Australia? In September, the selectors got together and spent nearly a week kicking the tires and working out were we best to stick with Alastair – given we were going to be playing a World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, with two new balls, where his track record is good, where he’s been captain for three-and-a-half years; the only time he really had a full-strength side they got to the final of the Champions Trophy and should have won it.

“Yes, he’s in miserable form but form can change and just as we saw during the summer, we felt strongly that all his experience, his toughness would come out. Bear in mind he’s gone through a traumatic summer in terms of the pressure on him but, in doing so, that dressing room is very much his dressing room, in a way it could never have been before. The amount of young people that we’ve introduced into that side, where he and Peter and others have created an environment where they’ve thrived have been terrific. So he’s the natural leader of that group of players.”

Downton also revealed that he will be discussing about whether Cook should captain England in the World Cup during a meeting with head coach Peter Moores, James Whitaker, Mick Newell and Angus Fraser on Friday.

“He’s not appointed captain at the moment,” he said. “I would be very surprised if he was not captain at the World Cup.

“He’s a remarkably strong guy and his track record says that he will score runs. Everybody goes through a bad period. He’s not captain forever, of course. But to the specific question: who is the best person to take us to the World Cup? The discussion we had in September, it’s Alastair Cook. It hasn’t helped that he hasn’t scored any runs yet because this question keeps coming up. But I’ve got to think that form will turn.”

Downton also admitted that England need to start giving ODIs more priority, especially since the country will be hosting the 2017 Champions Trophy and 2019 World Cup.

“The fact is we have not taken one-day cricket as seriously as other nations, it’s always the period when we rest cricketers, so that clearly has to change going forward,” he said. “We play more Test cricket probably than anybody else. Ultimately that’s been the driver of English cricket and one-day cricket has been an afterthought. It’s only at global tournaments that people really take it seriously. I’ve got to change that, we owe it to everybody to change that.

“As I look forward, my role is to say that in 2017 and 2019 we’ve got two global tournaments. We have to produce a side that certainly by 2019 will go to the World Cup as one of the favourites, and hopefully it will happen by 2017 when you look at the group of young players we have now.”

When asked about the accusations made in Kevin Pietersen’s autobiography, Downton said: “There is no formal complaint of bullying at all on anybody’s record during that whole period. It’s not something that has come up anywhere else; it was a surprise the way in which Kevin portrayed that environment. None of the other players recognise it, in terms of the people who have come out and said what a successful period for English cricket it was.

“All one has to do is read Kevin’s book to see how disaffected he was at the time. I don’t think you’ll ever be able to explain to some people’s satisfaction what happened. I can repeat what we said at the time, which was that people felt Kevin had become disengaged from the side and that we needed more from our leaders.”

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