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Cook keen to bat away talk over his future plans

By David Clough

Alastair Cook appears uncertain how much longer he will remain England captain, but he is ready for one new chapter when teenager Haseeb Hameed makes his debut as his latest opening partner in Rajkot.

Hameed will become England's youngest ever opener, at 19 years and 297 days, when he accompanies his skipper to the crease in the first of five Tests against India over the next six weeks.

Cook is convinced of the credentials of the Lancashire batsman, albeit after only 20 first-class matches, and made that clear as he announced Hameed's selection - in place of Ben Duckett, who will drop down to four - as his 10th new partner since Andrew Strauss retired four years ago.

England's captain is less sure, however, how many more times he may lead his country.

On the eve of his record-breaking 55th match in charge, going one above Michael Atherton, Cook said: "When someone says, 'how long do you see yourself captaining for?', you don't really know, do you?"

Cook lost the one-day international captaincy shortly before England's debacle of a campaign in the last World Cup - and that experience seems to have taught him to take nothing for granted.

"Ever since what happened in Sri Lanka just before the World Cup, I've been very open with you guys - and very open with (England and Wales Cricket Board director) Andrew Strauss," he said.

"I've said we'll take every series as it comes. So when someone asks you how long you go on for, I say 'Well, I don't know - it could be two months, which would be the end of this series; it could be six months, the end of the next one; or it could be two years'."

Cook is thought to be open to finishing his Test career as a batsman without the cares of captaincy - something he has done on occasion and enjoyed back in county cricket in recent times.

"I quite enjoy going back to Essex and standing at first slip not having to make the decisions - and just throwing a few ideas at the captain and seeing if he takes them," he said.

He is excited about seeing what Hameed can do at the highest level. He added: "All through his age groups, every team he's played in, he's scored runs. He should be proud, and we hope he can do well. There will be tough moments for him in Test cricket, but I think this guy can play."

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