Peter Moores’ rather equivocal ‘support’ for Alistair Cook after his, and England’s, failure a couple of days ago (not to be confused with their failure today) was an unexpected speck of light at the end of the tunnel.
Though Moores and now Downton keep insisting publicly that Cook will lead at the World Cup, it must be only them, the selectors and Cook himself who believe he is the right man to lead England into the World Cup. The problem is that the selectors and Moores have gone down a Cook cul-de-sac and can’t find a way out.
They backed Cook and continue to back him largely because they backed him before, and each time they do it they make it harder to go back on that decision. It’s a self-annihilating circle demonstrating the utmost lack of self-awareness.
As for as I can tell, they backed Cook for three reasons – desperate hope, convenience and a sense of him being the right kind of chap.
Desperate hope – he did score a few decent runs when he first took over as ODI skipper. He looked ok. However, he averages under 30 in 2014, has scored one 50 in his last 22 ODI innings, hasn’t scored a ton in 45 and has made next to no runs in this current series. And now he’s dropping catches. It’s not that he’s suddenly turned into Mike Brearley either. His captaincy doesn’t make up for his lack of runs. We’ve just lost this series.
Convenience – it really is ideal if one skipper does all the formats of the game or even a couple of them. But not if it’s all going so very wrong. It’s even counter-productive for Cook himself, who seems to be taking his increasingly shaky technique and crushed confidence into the test match arena.
The right kind of chap – he is the anti-Pietersen. He may be gauche, fumbling and awkward at times, he may be an uninspirational leader, he may to batting what Ed Miliband is to statesmanship but he’s a good egg.
Most infuriating of all is the realisation that the selectors, management and Cook are prepared to jettison England’s chances at the World Cup in order to save face on a poor decision to retain Cook as ODI captain. And ‘infuriating’ just doesn’t cover it if there is truth to the generally-accepted rumour circulating that Cook will quit as ODI captain after the World Cup.
Basically the selectors are saying, ‘We wait four years for this opportunity and players put their hearts and souls into getting in the squad and playing – and this year we’ve even planned six months of our international cricket schedule around it – but, hey, let’s write it off this time so Alistair can play in a tournament he’s always wanted to play in and the selectors won’t be forced to publicly acknowledge they’ve got it completely wrong.’
It makes me furious just thinking about it.
I’d love to dissect the 30 man England World Cup squad in minute detail, wondering what our best eleven is but it feels so pointless. Which is a shame because it feels like we have some players who are starting to show what they can do.
The bowling seems steady rather than spectacular but we can rely on Tredwell, Moeen and Broad when he’s back. Anderson isn’t a given in ODI cricket for me – if it doesn’t swing he gets tapped. Woakes is increasingly, and surprisingly, impressive; then there’s hopefully a resurgent Finn, with Jordan as back-up.
Batting line up should be Hales, Moeen, Taylor, Root, Morgan (assuming he remembers how to bat), Bopara, Buttler. I’d like to drop Morgan as his recent record is as unimpressive as Cook’s but I’d need to be confident that his replacement from the squad of 30 would definitely be better. There are no guarantees.
Having said that, I really wouldn’t mind if the selectors were bold for once and went for Ballance or Bairstow, Samit Patel or Adil Rashid. They won’t of course. (With quite a few dashers in the order I probably wouldn’t risk Jason Roy as well.) Stokes, unfortunately, has lost his way – probably not helped by the management not being able to decide if he’s an all-rounder, a batsman who bowls or a bowler who bats. I wouldn’t be averse to Vince getting a go, while Luke Wright is in there for old times’ sake only.
Unfortunately it looks like Cook will take up a valuable place in that order so some poor sod who deserves a game won’t get one.
There really are some exciting players in the squad – mainly batsmen – but I just feel utterly deflated before we even set off on our World Cup run-in.
The question is, will the powers-that-be find a weaselly way out of this – like Alistair Cook having a sudden flare-up of his back trouble. I wouldn’t put it past them. What they won’t do, of course, is admit they were wrong and actually drop Cook for the World Cup. Fingers crossed for 2019.
UPDATE: Info on the BBC’s live feed of the ODI today provides more crushing evidence:
England’s ODI captains have departed their roles after each of the last four World Cups. 1999: Alec Stewart sacked. 2003: Nasser Hussain resigned. 2007: Michael Vaughan resigned. 2011: Andrew Strauss resigned.
Since the Champions Trophy in 2013, England have completed 27 ODIs against Test-playing opposition (ie not counting Scotland and Ireland) – they have won nine of those, and lost 18.
And even more depressing…
Alastair Cook, speaking to Sky Sports: I’m working as hard as I can, I’m as hungry as ever to score runs, so I’ll go on. “I’ve always had an attitude to play cricket and compete. Yes, it hasn’t gone well over the last 12 months both personally with the bat and in one-day cricket. “I would feel very wrong to walk away from it. If it’s taken away from me, I’ll feel very disappointed, but I certainly won’t be giving it up.”