0How to manage a problem like England

In a way I am almost glad Eng­land failed to grind out a draw against Sri Lanka. Had they done so it would have been seen by many as some sort of mira­cu­lous escape. Backs to the wall, sto­ic defence when the chips were down. It must not, how­ever, detract from a dire per­form­ance. For the ump­teenth time the bats­men have let us down. The last Ashes on Eng­lish soil were won des­pite, not because of our bats­men and the over­all pic­ture hasn’t improved since then.

In this test the bat­ting line up failed against a very mediocre bowl­ing attack (God help them if Lasith Malinga or Mut­ti­ah Mur­a­lithar­in had been play­ing) and the bowl­ing attack failed too. Shock­ing per­form­ance all round really. We should have had them out in the first test too and a 1–1 draw sounds a lot bet­ter than a home-series defeat.
Com­ment­at­ors are start­ing to call for Cap­tain Cook’s head served up on a sil­ver plat­ter. As open­er the side look to Cook to be there, to sup­port the side as they look to put the runs on the board. Cook is endur­ing a shock­ing run of form and ques­tions are start­ing to be asked – both about his pos­i­tion at the top of the order and as cap­tain. But the ques­tion remains – what is the altern­at­ive? Drop him from both roles? That would mean either a tried, tested and failed option as open­er (Car­berry / Compton) or anoth­er rook­ie in the side – a rook­ie sup­port­ing fel­low rook­ies Sam Rob­son, Gary Bal­lance, Moeen Ali and rel­at­ive new­comer, Joe Root. Then you have the ques­tion about who skip­pers the side? If you go with the old adage of nev­er pick­ing a bowl­er as your cap­tain then Ian Bell is the only con­tender. He’s stood in for Cook on occa­sion but it would be a mighty gamble giv­ing him the arm­band.
So instead you keep a cool head and look at Cook’s record. As a bats­man he is undoubtedly world class. If he keeps his place there is every like­li­hood he will become England’s record run scorer. Class always shines through and I would back him to regain his touch.
As a cap­tain he’s done pretty well. Some would accuse him of being too defens­ive oth­ers attack him for a per­ceived lack of dynam­ism. Cer­tainly I would prefer a Michael Vaughan at the helm but Cook is who we have.
What should hap­pen is that we appoint a man­ager who takes every respons­ib­il­ity away from the Cap­tain (who­ever that may be) and deals with it him­self. All the cap­tain would have to focus on is his own game and the side’s over­all per­form­ance on the field of play. I may have mis­heard but I’m sure someone said that from the toss at the start of the match until he got back into the dress­ing room, Cook had to con­duct 15 media inter­views. Each one meant him hav­ing to watch every word that came forth from his mouth. Each one mak­ing him think hard about his answers. That can’t be good. The cap­tain needs to be think­ing about how he is going to mar­shal the troops in battle and ulti­mately win the game. A man­ager would be more of a focal point with the cap­tain almost invis­ible but to his on-field charges. The man­ager would then take on the post-match press con­fer­ence and be the one who deals with the big issues such as the Pietersen affair. Sure, the cap­tain can have an input, but behind the scenes, away from the pub­lic gaze.

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