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Alastair Cook: Players could inspire me to become a better England captain

New English stars are inspiring Cook

By Robert Jones and David Clough

Alastair Cook believes the players he has at his disposal could inspire him to become a better England captain ahead of the imminent Investec Ashes series.

Cook's leadership has been under almost non-stop scrutiny since he took the job in August 2012, but he cut a relaxed figure ahead of today's first Test with Australia in Cardiff.

With the attack-minded Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler all emerging as regular Test stars, Cook is conscious he may have to adopt a similar mindset.

"There is a lot written about my captaincy and it is important I sometimes get on the front foot," said Cook.

"If you look back at previous teams, they were more methodical. Maybe there's more opportunity to be on the front foot with the players we've got now.

"As a leader you have to change your style of leadership to the players you've got and what gets the best out of them."

Cook admitted tensions are high but added that his side are champing at the bit to get the series under way.

"A day before, there's a bit of nerves flying around," he said. "The overriding thing you saw at training was that the lads, after all the build-up, can't wait to get going.

"It's a huge challenge for us to play against (one of) the best sides in the world but in our home conditions as players you want to test yourself against the best."

The build-up to the series has been dominated by the topic of sledging and Cook agreed with opposite number Michael Clarke that any vocal confrontations should not overstep the mark.

"I think people want to see competitive cricket, both sides giving their all for their country," he said.

"But I do believe there is that line which is in the sand somewhere and everyone knows you can't cross and I hope we can play to that."

Australia will enter the series with confidence having whitewashed England the last time the two sides met Down Under in 2013-14.

Yet Cook is not interested in the past, adding: "The most important thing (to remember) is that's gone.

"You've got to be very careful as players not to read too much into all that.

"It's a new challenge, a fresh start - both teams have new faces.

"Cricket's not played on paper, not played on what happened two years ago - it's about what happens for the next 25 days."

Clarke: Aussies can shoulder pressure

Australia captain Michael Clarke expects his players to keep their emotions from boiling over despite the fierce pressure of an Ashes series.

England and Australia renew hostilities in Cardiff today as the first Test gets under way, with the build-up to the Investec series dominated by the topic of sledging.

While England skipper Alastair Cook and James Anderson have attempted to play it down, the tourists have indicated that they will not take a backward step.

Clarke, who was fined after telling Anderson to "get ready for a f*****g broken arm" in Brisbane in 2013-14, says getting involved in heated confrontation has failed to improve his game.

However, he understands it has helped former or current team-mates, and he is happy for it to continue - as long as they do not overstep the mark.

"For me you don't have to say a word to show your intent and play a good brand of cricket. Whether I've sledged someone or somebody's sledged me, it's never helped my game," he said.

"I'd like to see the individual players play their best cricket and to some players that I've been fortunate enough to play with through my career it helped their game.

"As long as those players understand there's a line you can't overstep then they know what they have to do and that's what is important to have success."

Australia are favourites to retain the urn yet they have not won a Test series on English soil since 2001, with England besting them on three occasions since then.

While Clarke's men have the bragging rights after a 5-0 whitewash Down Under two winters ago, England can boast the 3-0 win they achieved in 2013.

"We know how hard this series is going to be," said Clarke. "Beating England in their own backyard is extremely tough, but we're excited by the challenge."

Clarke was keeping his cards close to his chest regarding his team selection, insisting he will only reveal his line-up at the last possible moment.

"We haven't got a team at this stage," he added. "The wicket's changed a fair bit from yesterday already, so the selectors are going to wait another day and see what it's like tomorrow before the start of play.

"So we'll announce our XI at the toss of the coin."

Belfast Telegraph


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