Alastair Cook will want nothing less than to win his first series in charge as England’s official one-day international captain but so far, with the bat in his hand especially, he has made a terrific start to his leadership reign.
With all the criticism that has come his way in the past couple of weeks, led it has to be said by a former England captain in Mike Atherton, I’m just very surprised that people were wanting to judge him before he had realy started the job.
I’m happy to say I was one of the ‘give him time’ merchants, although I do have some sympathy for Athers who was being a bit tongue in cheek with his comments and trying to be a bit humourous too in his references to Cook being a “donkey in the field” and a “plodder”.
Those are well-known cricketing expressions, and should be seen as such rather than damning criticism, but at the same time I was surprised that Michael chose to come out with them – even in levity. What is without doubt is that Cook has responded in a way which underlines both his talent as a cricketer and batsman, and his steel as a character.
It is always wrong to prejudge people and, with Cook, I think it was forgotten rather too easily that here is a serious cricketer and a very fine player. Cook, in this one-day international series so far, with his hundred at Lord’s and particularly his brilliant 95 not out at Trent Bridge, has simply done what very fine players do: he’s adapted to the position he has been put in and taken his game to another level.
Perhaps being named as 50-over captain, together with the questioning of his right to be in charge, has forced him to expand his game. But, so far, he has risen to the challenge very impressively and that should not be a shock to us. Cook is a very bright bloke, he’s got a serious Test batting record and he’s shown throughout his career that he is an incredibly quick learner. What’s happened in this one-day series against Sri Lanka has merely been an extension of that.
Don’t forget, too, that when he was out of England’s one-day side he made a lot of runs for Essex in limited-overs cricket, including a Twenty20 Cup hundred against Surrey. And you don’t score Twenty20 hundreds without being able to hit the ball hard and often.
All this Cook v Atherton stuff has been manna from heaven for the tabloids, of course, but in dealing with the inevitable questions on the subject throughout the series Cook has gone into Test match mode – he’s nudged them all away very comfortably thank you!
More to the point, I think, is that this episode has shown once again that new captains set the tone for their sides and Cook, as an experienced and mature cricketer and person, has revealed his capacity to do just that.
As for England the one-day team, I’d like to see them win the series at Old Trafford by beating the Sri Lankans on a flat surface rather than the sort of seaming pitch that enabled them to crush Tillekeratne Dilshan’s side at Trent Bridge.
I’m still not convinced about Jade Dernbach – he needs to show a little bit more consistency and not just his bag of slower ball tricks, and also needs to get a bit closer to the stumps rather than come in wide on the crease all the time – and it was noticeable at Nottingham that it was Jimmy Anderson and Tim Bresnan, rather than Dernbach and Stuart Broad, who got the seam movement and used the conditions to the full. Indeed, if Chris Tremlett had played on that Trent Bridge pitch, I reckon it could have got very ugly for Sri Lanka.