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England’s Alastair Cook and Co in need of reality check

Posted on | April 4, 2015 | 1 Comment

Here is a simple question for you. Do you think Paul Downton, James Whitaker, Peter Moores, Alastair Cook and Eoin Morgan are going to restore English cricket and move us forward? My answer to that, and I think most people, too, is no.

The public are dispirited and disenchanted with what they have witnessed this winter. Downton, Whitaker, Moores and Cook have been comforting each other by informing us all that England are a young team while, at the same time, being negative about Kevin Pietersen. But they are leading a losing team and some, if not all, will be sacked if we do not start playing good cricket. Beating the West Indies will not be enough because it is how we play against New Zealand and Australia that will determine if they keep their jobs.

The ironic thing to me is that Cook is still smarting over being relieved of the one-day captaincyHe seems to have an inflated belief his captaincy skills were any good. He lost six one-day series in a row and batted like an opener from my era. He cannot or will not grasp that his style of batting, or mine for that matter, does not work in the modern one-day game.

But Cook has gone on record to say the selectors were wrong to sack him just before Christmas and implied England would have done much better at the World Cup with him in charge. He seems to have conveniently forgotten he could not make a run and England were losing more one-dayers than they were winning.

It was amazing to most of us how long the selectors left him in the job. He feels he was badly treated and has compounded it all by his comments about KP coming back for England. He dismissed his chances of returning even after Colin Graves, the new ECB chairman, publicly opened the door to Pietersen.

KP has had a private conversation with Colin and it is misguidedly stupid that Cook believes his opinion is more important than the chairman elect of ECB, who is his boss. I find that quite extraordinary. Whitaker, the chairman of selectors, has poured cold water on KP coming back and Downton says nothing has changed. If these people keep on being negative before Pietersen has even picked up a bat again then the chairman elect and executive board might think of sacking them all and clearing the decks.

It is this arrogance that they are more superior than their bosses that jars with me. They are not winning, England cricket has been poor, you struggle to find anybody in England who can be sure we will beat New Zealand this summer and nearly everyone is backing Australia to wallop us in the Ashes. Yet these guys carry on as if nothing has happened and they are secure in their jobs. It is unbelievable.

While they are in the West Indies, the players will be looking over their shoulders at KP and wondering if he is coming back. Good. They are England players and have to handle the pressure. I hope it makes them play better because they should be able to win out there.

England are better at Test cricket than one-dayers and the West Indies have appeared as a disunited bunch with various players unavailable because they are in the IPL. Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Sunil Narine are missing and you wonder if the rest are more interested in IPL than Test cricket.

But we have individual players under pressure. Jonathan Trott has to prove he is back to his best. Andy Flower and the England doctor publicly said he had a stress-related illness when he left Australia. Everyone tried to be compassionate because most of us do not understand it. A few months later, he said he was just tired and shattered.

So the question still lingers can he still do it under pressure or will he buckle again? The selectors need to know because if he plays against Australia he will get plenty of verbals.

They will taunt him over the last Ashes tour and their fast bowlers will send down plenty of short stuff. He needs to prove against West Indies and New Zealand that he can cut it again at Test level and not split and run. Then there is Stuart Broad. He is a major bowler for England and we haven’t got many. Since the operation on his knee he has been fit to bowl but he has been sending down powder puff, hittable balls. His bowling has no rhythm, he has lost pace and it is obvious he needs overs under his belt. Stuart has to retrieve his pace and aggression because he is a big factor for England.

His batting was psychologically damaged by Mitchell Johnson last winter and then his nose was broken by Varun Aaron. Embarrassingly, he is frightened and he is backing away. If he can’t solve that soon the Australian quicks will decimate him.

Gary Ballance was thrown in at the deep end last summer and was a huge success at No 3 in Test cricket but he had a shocking World Cup and the question is whether he can bounce back. Will he be batting at three or six? That is a big one. Trott might slot back in to his old position because he has an outstanding record from 49 Tests at No 3. Ballance might have to move down to No 6 or, if he gets nod at three, Trott may be asked to open. However, Adam Lyth deserves a chance opening after a terrific county season last year.

Yorkshire won the championship and he was a big factor. Adam played well for the England Lions in South Africa and scored a century when Yorkshire beat MCC in Abu Dhabi. He is a bit different to most England players and bats a bit like David Gower. He has lovely touch and timing and scores effortlessly. Occasionally, like Gower, he will nick it to slip but he has something about him.

It is important Cook bowls Liam Plunkett wisely and does not overuse him, as he is the only genuine pace bowler we have. James Anderson will be motivated to break Sir Ian Botham’s record as England’s highest Test wicket taker. He is the only world-class bowler we have so God help us if he breaks down injured over the next 12 months.

I started with Cook and I’m going to end with him. His batting is still under pressure and he has not made an international century for two years.

It is now time for Alastair to stop talking make more runs. He still has to convince a lot of people he is the best man for the job as a captain in the field. Stop following the ball, make things happen, be proactive and show us some fresh ideas. He has to be a game-changer and not just sit back and wait because how England fare against the West Indies, New Zealand and Australia is vital to him, Downton, Moores and Whitaker keeping their jobs.