Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Alastair Cook is defiant, but Dhoni tells him to quit

Alastair Cook
Rooted out: England batsman Joe Root is consoled by Stuart Broad after his wicket was taken at Lords

Alastair Cook, the beleaguered England captain, remained defiant last night after his team's seventh defeat in their last nine Test matches. He insisted he was the man to take them forward to a bright new tomorrow – despite mounting evidence to the contrary – and appears to have the unanimous backing of his bosses and team-mates.

Shortly after England's loss to India by 95 runs in the second Test at Lord's, which puts them 1-0 behind in the Investec series, Cook said: "You always have thoughts when things are tough but I'm just as determined as I was at the beginning of this game.

"Five days is a long time in sport and I'm still here. I still want to throw it all at being captain. I've still got determination."

For now, there is a genuine belief in Cook's continued tenure and his right to try to halt a serious run of poor performances. England were whitewashed 5-0 by Australia during the winter and lost the first home Test series of the summer 1-0 to Sri Lanka. They have not lost two series at home in the same summer since 1986.

"This was a tough loss in good conditions for us," said Cook.

"It makes it harder not scoring runs, tougher and tougher. When I start scoring and results change, the circle will change but until that moment comes, it's tough."

Cook reiterated that he will continue until his position becomes untenable, which he suggested would be the end of the series if England lose it.

Another defeat next week in the third Test at Southampton would, however, concentrate minds. He and Peter Moores, the coach, continue to possess mutual trust and belief.

"Me and Peter still think we can turn it around," he said.

"People still feel I'm right. Everyone has doubts. It's only natural when things aren't going well, but it makes me more determined.

"I would love to win this series. How much satisfaction that would be from a dark time.

"I haven't had any tougher time in my career but I don't think of walking away from it"

There is one way in which the decision on Cook's immediate future could be taken out of England's hands.

The over rate in the second Test was less than the regulations stipulate and if in the admittedly improbable event that the match referee deems England to be at fault, Cook will be banned for a Test.

Then what of the future?

His Indian counterpart MS Dhoni has advised Cook to step down if he fears the job is damaging his form and the success of the team.

Dhoni led India to their first Test win at Lord's since 1986, and only the second in their history, to put India 1-0 up in the five-match series and Cook on the brink.

Dhoni has known such difficult times. As India captain, he lost eight successive Tests against England and Australia between 2011 and 2012, but he remained in the job despite a mediocre Test record.

Asked for his thoughts on Cook's predicament, Dhoni said: "It doesn't matter who the captain is, but it's important for the individual to realise whether the added responsibility is putting too much pressure on him.

"I've gone through a phase where we lost eight matches back to back, you get all types of comments but you need to realise what needs to be done.

"If you feel that if you're not the captain it will help improve your cricket then you're better off doing that, but it depends on the individual."

Cook revealed that the last five days had been some of the most difficult of his career but that he still believes he is the man to revive England. In what appeared to be a dig at his bowlers, who failed to deliver in helpful conditions on the first morning after Cook had won the toss, the captain suggested that those seeking to blame him should look elsewhere.

"A captain is only as good as the players who play," said Cook. "At Trent Bridge (where England and India drew the first Test), I thought I did well. Here it was a simple game plan, and I don't think my captaincy was the reason we lost this game.

England will announce the squad for third Test in Southampton today, the same day as the preliminary hearing into the charges against James Anderson and Ravindra Jadeja, both of whom face possible bans for their clash in the pavilion at Trent Bridge on 10 July.

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