England news February 7, 2017

'You can't do this job at 95%' - Alastair Cook

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Dobell: Cook served England with distinction

Alastair Cook has admitted that he had "been to the well" too many times to carry on as England captain, as he spelled out his reasons for stepping down after a record 59 Tests in charge.

Speaking at Lord's for the first time since his resignation was confirmed, Cook admitted that he had been left drained by a tough winter campaign in the subcontinent, which culminated in five Test defeats in England's last six matches, including a maiden Test defeat against Bangladesh and a 4-0 series loss to India.

"It was an incredibly tough decision to make," Cook told Sky Sports. "I've loved every minute as England captain, but it's a job you have to commit 100% to, and there've been certain times throughout my four or five years in the job when I've been to the well and dug pretty deep.

"And coming back from India, the way I felt then, I didn't think I had it in me to do it again, because this isn't a job where you can operate at 95%.

"When I looked in that mirror, I felt it was time. It was sad in one way, because I've loved the honour and prestige of all of it. I've been leading some great men and had some great moments as England captain, but I do think it's the right time for me and for the team."

Cook's career included some notable high points, not least his maiden series as full-time captain in 2012-13, when he led England to a stunning 2-1 series win in India, and last year's away win in South Africa. But the low moments were particularly bruising, not least the Ashes whitewash in 2013-14, which presaged the most testing period of his tenure - the sacking of Kevin Pietersen ahead of the 2014 home season.

Cook was present at the ECB meeting that signalled the end of Pietersen's England career, and he bore the brunt of much of the fall-out for the rest of that summer. "I think we all have regrets over how it was handled," he admitted. "I was part of that decision, I wasn't the be-all-and-end-all of it, but what followed was part of the responsibility I had as England captain.

"The fallout wasn't great for English cricket, we were in the headlines for the wrong reasons, especially when our job as players is to promote the game as best we can, so it was not the best six months. But things have moved on, and since Andrew Strauss has come in [as England director], he's done a great job and made it clear that the side has moved on."

While insisting that his tenure wasn't "all doom and gloom", Cook did single out England's supporters for particular gratitude, not least those who gave him an ovation at the Ageas Bowl during the 2014 home series against India, when Cook was enduring some of the worst batting form of his career.

"I'll never forget Southampton, the warmth I had there in 2014," he said. "That kept me going, and of course my family and friends who mean the world to me and stuck with me through the tough times."

Asked if he would have any advice for his younger self, or for that matter the player who is appointed to succeed him, Cook - a famously stubborn individual - was revealingly candid.

"The advice I needed was to make sure you don't always do it your way," he said. "There are a lot of great people out there who watch a lot of cricket who know probably more than you do. So use that advice and be open to it. Ultimately you have to make the decision out there yourself, but use as much as you can. A lot of people want you to do well, because people love seeing England win games of cricket.

"It is a challenging job, you don't know what will be thrown at you at certain times. But I have loved it, and that is what has made the decision quite hard, because I knew what I was giving away. I look forward to the next part of my career, supporting the next guy as best I can, and hopefully scoring some runs as well and being part of England's success."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • smudgeon on February 8, 2017, 9:40 GMT

    JOSE...P, just to clarify, I wasn't meaning you specifically when I said "let's give him time", particularly not after such a well measured defence of him as a WIP :) It was just more of a general plea for people not to be so hasty to write him off in perpetuity. As you say, I hope he gets that experience of diversity via some stints in overseas leagues. It'll do wonders for him.

  • Jose...P on February 8, 2017, 9:09 GMT

    @SMUDGEON.

    Let's give Stokes time? Absolutely.

    Hope, he gets into a good IPL team, where he will be spending a lot of time with players from different countries and different temperament -- that itself will be a major step in the growth process; far beyond cricket.

    I do wish him well. Irrespective of the fact, that I had expressed annoyance at some of his behaviour in the past. As I had done with my own grandson in the past.

  • smudgeon on February 8, 2017, 8:51 GMT

    JOSE...P, you make an excellent point about players growing up on the world stage. Stokes is fiery, the test for him is to channel that fire into performance - many others have done so, and they're the ones we remember. It's even tougher these days with the constant scrutiny by fans and the media, we put these kids under immense pressure to behave in a way the fans of dozens of different countries and cultures deem appropriate. Kohli is a great example of someone who manages to channeled that aggression and attitude into performance. The fact that I am even praising him - I was anything but a fan until the last Test tour to Australia when Kohli emerged as a combative leader and even more surprisingly, a statesman in the aftermath of Phil Hughes - shows that there is a path from wild-child to sublime talent, and I admire him for it. Let's give Stokes time, eh?

  • Jose...P on February 8, 2017, 2:48 GMT

    Earlier. I made a comment, stating, @Nutcutlett's post isn't derogatory to Ben Stokes. Lest, I may be misread, a bit of clarification, at the risk of going on tangent.

    Stokes is still WIP. Even for an all rounder like Freddie. Forget captaincy ATM.

    For England, Beefy is the gold standard for an allrounder. Even Freddie is a few notches below in that ladder. Stokes has the potential, but still have to traverse some distance to reach even Freddie's level, first. If he succeeds in that, we can see the possibility of he aiming for somewhere around the rung of Beefy. A very long way, though.

    Now about the inner arrogance & aggression. After all they are not that bad traits, in these days of excessively competitive cricket, with huge stakes involved.

    Looking at an ex-pub-brawler Ponting having so successfully transited that stage, and a highly inflammable Kohli still transiting that, I wouldn't completely give up on Stokes - who may resemble a gun-powder dump ATM.

    Let's wait & see.

  • Jose...P on February 8, 2017, 1:10 GMT

    @NUTCUTLETT @16:54 GMT

    I didn't think your comment on Ben Stokes is derogatory at all.

    On the contrary, it was a balanced assessment of a very talented lad, who CAN, one day, show his leadership skills, provided he harness and manage his ego & temper.

    You also rightly noticed that some degree of inner arrogance & aggressive attitude could be a strength, if directed into the right channels and let flow in a measured way - if I may add, like water stored in huge reservoir is let out through the sluice gates,

    Likening him to be soon reaching the league of Beefy & KP (a possibility) in fact is a HUGE complement (if that is in cricketing terms), and once Stokes manages to manage himself, he may, and possibly can, lead a team with distinction. Showing those skills, of course, will certainly take time, and hope Stokes may reach that stage, one day.

  • InsideHedge on February 7, 2017, 21:47 GMT

    @cricfan44810102 : I didn't find @NutCutlet's comments derogatory, they're views shared by many. I commented in a separate article about his reaction to a ball boy in the just concluded ODI series. On the Bangladesh leg, he couldn't control himself when the two teams shook hands at the end of the game. They're too recent, thankfully there's still an air of stiff tradition at Lord's and in this particular case - appointing a captain - that conservative outlook is the correct one. Captaining your country involves more than just playing good cricket on the field.

  • HatsforBats on February 7, 2017, 21:32 GMT

    Cook's tenure has been a captaincy of ups & downs, and with quite a few debuts during his time England have struggled for consistency. But having Cook at 1st slip and top of the order will give his new captain some much needed solidity. It's hard to see past Root as captain; the bowlers are more likely to miss games through injury, a keepers job is hard enough already, and all-rounders always bowl themselves too much (Stokes is probably best left as an attack dog let off the leash when required). A Root-Bairstow pairing looks ideal; young, positive, first-choice players that know each other well.

  • Lmaotsetung on February 7, 2017, 21:18 GMT

    Typical Alastair Cook, no big announcement, no huge press conference. I guess even the most stubborn has his/her limit and he's reached the end of the road. I'd love to see him play another 3-4 years. Maybe stepping down from the captaincy is what's needed for that second wind like Sachin had in his mid 30s when he was in dominating form.

  • TheWonderBlunder on February 7, 2017, 20:58 GMT

    "He allowed the younger talented players to establish themselves. He was the platform upon which they built. Leaves his side with a young but experienced side.One of the greatest captains. And it's true that he as captain achieved some fine fine things..". You were a special captain, Dhoni..err I mean Cook. :)

  • VariousHits on February 7, 2017, 19:45 GMT

    Not many captains can claim to have won away series in SA, Australia and India. Cook definitely had some great results on the field. However, it must be said, he let internal dressing room politics wreck the career of one of his star batsmen, and that is unbecoming of a leader. A leader doesn't join gangs and plays politics, or lets himself be used as a tool in the machinations of others, and stand by while the career of one his players is being destroyed.

    For me that defines Cook, and something all the successes on the field cannot make up for.

    He was at best a meek company man who didn't stand up for one of the men he was leading.