Thursday, 28 August 2014

Why Alastair Cook should have left as ODI captain and why he can't now

happier times

I wondered why Graeme Swann came out publicly with his now well-publicised remarks about England's ODI selection policies and I have come to the conclusion it must have been exasperation.

Since, as both sides acknowledge, they were such good friends before, he must have broached the subject in private before coming out with it in public. (If not, they may have to reevaluate their relationship.) Sometimes we need a friend to tell us things we don't see, or call us on things don't want to face.

But Alastair Cook may not be the best at taking friendly advise, however strongly Swann felt about it. Seeing he was getting nowhere, possibly not even planning to, he let the cat out of the bag on national radio.

I love Cookie dearly, but I don't think he should be bothering playing one-day cricket anymore. He doesn't need to. He's proved a very good point in Test matches. He should just enjoy being England Test captain.

What Swann said is not anything new. And it certainly isn't uncommon. He did stand by his friend earlier in the year, when many others called for his head as Test captain, but he also knows the way the ECB approaches one-day cricket is long overdue for a shake-up.

It is not at all surprising that England and Cook - whether it is a natural fit or Cook has adapted to the culture of the ECB, the mentality of the two now seems interchangeable - have painted themselves into this corner. They are too afraid to let go to be able to improve. All they can ever hope to achieve are stop-gap measures and those players will most likely be dropped at the first sign of, almost inevitable, failure.

Instead, they will plod on with the current side, with too many Test players and a fear of losing that overrides every instinct to grab the initiative. Illustrative of the mindset was Cook's reaction after the loss of the first ODI to be played.

We weren’t at the races today and I don’t quite know why. It was not a 300-wicket; nor was it a 160-wicket. It’s not the end of the world but it is frustrating. You can’t win every game of cricket, certainly not when you play like that. We will just have to dust ourselves off and play better.

As long as they're locked into their current mindset, look forward to more such bloodless resignation. If only there were some spark there. Steel is all well and good for Test matches, but now England need something more explosive.

He’s a good friend and has been a supporter and it’s not helpful at this time because I am going to go and captain in this World Cup.

Perhaps cutting the cord with the Test side and filling the ODI team with players who have a proven track record in one-dayers wouldn't win England the World Cup next year, but it would increase their chances. The important thing is that any changes are made before it's too late.

In reality they should have been made earlier, long ago even, but given the strange nature of the cricket calendar and the total lack of Test matches these coming months, England are in the extraordinary position of still being able to change their ways and try new things. After the three ODIs left in this series against India, there is still a seven-match series against Sri Lanka in December and a triangular series with Australia and India in January before the World Cup starts in February. With so many matches, they could afford to try and change things.

Unfortunately, chances are they won't.

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