December 25, 2016

Time for Cook to step down

The battle-scarred England captain is not making the best use of his resources. Meanwhile, Australia look resurgent, but still lack a world-class allrounder

Alastair Cook's conservative approach is no longer getting the best out of his England team © Associated Press

It was Herbie Collins, a successful Australian captain in the 1920s, who wisely decreed, "Getting the combination right is the most important thing in selection." Of late, it doesn't seem to matter what combination India utilise, it's the right one. India have a seemingly endless production line of prolific young batsmen; huge totals plus the guile of spinners R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, have proved to be an irresistible combination.

The Australian team is resurgent after a horror patch of five successive Test losses. Two good wins followed, but the team hierarchy is still searching for an allrounder and batsmen who might succeed in India.

Picking the best six batsmen is a good start and if they can't fathom Indian conditions then the tour is destined to be a lost cause. The choice of an allrounder for India is a far cry from what is required in Australia, as the batsmen who bowl - Steven Smith and David Warner - are both part-time spinners who can offer a few overs of variety and relief.

India have just sent England packing with their tail between their legs and that humiliation should be a warning to Australia: pick specialists rather than players who do a bit of each. England regularly selected three specialist batsmen and a slew of allrounders of varying standard. It is asking for trouble to man the crucial No. 4 spot with your main spinner and a player who, in other regions, bats at No. 8. England are blessed with a lot of very talented young cricketers and a world-class allrounder in Ben Stokes. But Collins would have been appalled at the imbalance of the combinations England used in India. They have to decide if Moeen Ali is a No. 4 or a front-line spinner, and batting keepers at No. 5 and No. 7 resembles asking for a honey and Vegemite sandwich.

Undoubtedly, England were handicapped by not having a major spin-bowling weapon in India. There is also no question England are well equipped with pace bowlers and will be a serious threat at home and in places like Australia and South Africa. However, their potential won't be realised until they stabilise their top order and appoint a captain who fully utilises the assets he is handed.

England paid the price for picking a slew of allrounders instead of reliable specialists © Associated Press

Joe Root and Stokes are both aggressive, potential match-winners who are supported by a number of other players with a positive approach. In Alastair Cook, England have an obdurate opener who is invaluable as a batsman but a conservative captain who is badly battle-scarred.

Cook's captaincy features an inability to stem the flow of runs once the opposition get on a roll. While the England players may publicly say they are behind Cook as captain, the next time it starts to go pear-shaped they will be thinking, "Here we go again."

At the conclusion of the India series Cook said, "It's the wrong time to make those decisions [about continuing as captain] as energy is low and you can make foolish decisions at those times." On the contrary, it can be the right time. If he continues as captain and then has another horror day or two in the field he will be right back where he was following the Chennai debacle. Then he will wonder why he continued. Even worse, his team-mates will be thinking exactly the same, and valuable time to bed in a new captain will have been lost.

Anyway, it is not up to Cook to decide whether he remains captain - it is the selectors' job. If they decide Cook is not the man for the job, out of deference to the sterling work he has done as a player, they should give him the option to resign.

Richie Benaud, another wise former Australian captain, once told me, "Retirement is the easiest decision you'll make." He was almost right - resigning the Australian captaincy when I was mentally knackered was even easier.

The England selectors only need ask themselves one question: would the Australians like Cook to captain the next Ashes series? The answer would be an emphatic, "Yes."

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a cricket commentator for Channel Nine, and a columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rohan on January 4, 2017, 2:02 GMT

    England are unstable, the captain doesn't know if he wants to lead or even be there anymore, the best bowlers are aging and not far off the end and have struggled badly on previous tours in Australia anyway. Another thrashing in the Ashes beckons for England, can't wait!!

  • SG on December 31, 2016, 19:12 GMT

    Not sure why my earlier response was not posted .... but @KUMARSAP you do realize that Chappell called for Tendulkar to retire in March 2007 and not in 2011 or 2012 as you try to make it out to be. Between 2007 and 2011 Tendulkar made 4000+ runs at a avg of 63 with 16 Hundreds in just 42 Tests (More hundreds than what Ian managed in his entire Career i.e 14 hundreds in 75 Tests). Talk about proving a point !.

  • Jay on December 30, 2016, 4:23 GMT

    Ian - Barking up the wrong tree again! Last year, Prophet Chappelli declared from his bully pulpit: "Is Cook next in line to bite the dust?"! Oops. Reality: It's Cook who claimed the Ashes, sending Clarke (Ian's favorite captain) packing into retirement. Ian's biases, grudges, half-baked theories & illusions are rooted so deep in his mind, he does not make any rational commentary. Call it the Chappelli Attention Deficit! Recall his silly "Mirror, Mirror on the wall" dictum to Tendulkar to retire in 2007? Oops. He missed it by 6+ years. As a baseball nut, Chappelli should heed Yogi Berra's famous dictum: "It ain't over till it's over"!!

  • praveen on December 28, 2016, 4:28 GMT

    @SG70 Sir Ian is always correct.

    Ofcourse Sachin paid attention to Ian's critics, just for that sake he prolonged his career to prove Ian wrong, but what happened is, it backfired sachin. His average dropped from 56 to 53 in his last 4 years. Had he played another 1 or 2 years it would have surged further down to 50. Sir Ian knew this already and suggested him to retire. Just because he did not retire, we got to see how he struggled in ENG in 2012 , 4-0, then in Austraila 4-0. Then he was part of the team losing against ENG after 24 years without significant contribution.

  • Vikram on December 28, 2016, 1:33 GMT

    "The Australian team is resurgent after a horror patch of five successive Test losses." - you are funny. Beating a team in a dead rubber and coming almost close to losing a test match against a team playing a day-night test in alien conditions makes it 'resurgent'?

  • Steven on December 27, 2016, 23:04 GMT

    I'm with Chappell on this cook was never agood captain let him concentrate on his batting England could of been more competitive in India had the selections been better moeen might have got runs in India but has so many flaws with the short ball and driving loosely outside off and his bowling is basically part time he won't succeed on bouncier packer pitches I would drop moeen this would be my England team cook hameed Jennings root bell stokes Bairstow woakes rashid or Dawson or whoever they deem as the best spinner then broad Anderson with root as captain I think that would be there strongest team if they swallow there pride and recall Ian bell 5 is his position and would stabilise the middle order

  • SG on December 27, 2016, 18:38 GMT


    What do you mean "It was true when he said sachin has to retire" ? Thank God SRT paid no attention whatsoever to such calls ... had he retired India would most certainly have not won the WorldCup in 2011 and his fans would have missed out on some top class batting in 2009-2011 period of which the 146 vs Steyn and 214 vs Johnson being the Epic performances.

  • john on December 27, 2016, 10:53 GMT

    gundapps look at lyons stats in asia. Also why is there so much criticism at cook when england won a series at least in india in 2012?

  • love on December 27, 2016, 9:59 GMT

    Ian asking for someone to step down. OMG does it mean Cook is going to score 5000 more runs in Test Cricket and 15 more centuries ?

  • Matthew on December 27, 2016, 8:22 GMT

    As much as I don't like or rate Cooks dour and defensive captaincy, he can't be (solely) blamed for the results of this resent tour. Having Moen at 4 yet having him bowl 30+ overs. At what point was this considered a good idea? Selecting Batty? This was an attempt to do ...? Cook didn't know. Batty didn't know. Stokes, the premium all rounder in world cricket, was ineffective in both disciplines except for one session. Admittedly he was under bowled while Moen was over bowled which counted against Cooks captaincy, but it all boils down to one simple fact. England didn't have to cattle to get the job done in India. Not many, if any, teams do, so there's no shame in that. Some daft selections compounded this. Cooks captaincy was a far off third in the reasons why England was pantsed.

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