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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