Alastair Cook pays price for downward England spiral

Alastair Cook will turn 30 on Christmas Day, but having been dropped as England`s one-day captain on Saturday, he may not be in much of a mood to celebrate.

AFP| Updated: Dec 20, 2014, 16:22 PM IST
Alastair Cook pays price for downward England spiral

London: Alastair Cook will turn 30 on Christmas Day, but having been dropped as England`s one-day captain on Saturday, he may not be in much of a mood to celebrate.

Officials had remained steadfast in their support of Cook during an ongoing poor run of form that he halted temporarily with an innings of 95 against India in the third Test at Southampton in July.

But the orthodox and obstinate opener could not turn the tide in one-day internationals.

His best score this year was 56, while the recent 5-2 loss away to Sri Lanka represented England`s fifth successive ODI series loss under Cook`s captaincy.

Cook`s form in Sri Lanka -- 119 runs in six innings, at an average of 19.83 -- was dire and afterwards he was clearly preparing himself for being dropped from the World Cup squad.

"I have not scored the runs I would have liked and we have not won the number of games I would have liked," said Cook, who has now gone 59 innings without an England hundred in any format.

"If it happens, I could have no complaints ... My performances in the one-day game this year have not been good enough."

There have long been calls for Cook to be spared white-ball cricket, with former England captain Michael Vaughan among those arguing it would leave the Essex left-hander fresh for the 2015 home Ashes series and improve England`s World Cup prospects at the same time.

"Teams have worked out not to bowl short at Cook," wrote Vaughan in the Daily Telegraph this week.

"They also bowl spin in one-day cricket. He plants his front foot, using a big forward press, which is fine in Test cricket because it helps you defend, but in one-day cricket it makes you static.

"He is stationary so it is easy to bowl at him and set fields meaning he will always chew up balls."But the one defect in England`s recent and unprecedented focus on 50-over cricket is that the spin-friendly conditions in Sri Lanka are likely to be the total opposite of those in Australia and New Zealand.

After Cook returned from leading England to a 5-0 Ashes defeat in Australia at the start of this year, England`s freshly-installed managing director Paul Downton and new-look selection panel insisted he was the right man to lead the team in both five-day and 50-over cricket.

It was a theme echoed by Peter Moores, recalled as coach following Andy Flower`s resignation.

Indeed, in the midst of a convoluted explanation as to why Kevin Pietersen had been effectively sacked, the England and Wales Cricket Board cited the need to support Cook`s captaincy.

So a U-turn at this relatively late stage represents something of an embarrassment for the ECB hierarchy, especially with Pietersen blasting a rapid 66 for the Melbourne Stars in the opening match of this season`s Big Bash League on Thursday.

Yet such have been England`s fundamental problems, including a lack of penetration with the ball and a habit of losing wickets too quickly, in a 2014 where they have lost 16 ODIS and won nine, there is little to suggest a change of captain and/or opening batsman would make that much difference.

However, Alex Hales offers the prospect of a more dynamic approach at the top of the order and England have not been markedly worse off as a one-day side when Eoin Morgan has captained the team in Cook`s absence.

England have never won the World Cup and the last of their three losing appearances in the final was in 1992.

At the moment, the only reason for believing those records might improve is that it is so outlandish it just might happen.

But it remains hard to see how, even if pacemen James Anderson and Stuart Broad return from injury, England can become a World Cup-winning side in a matter of months -- even with the misfiring Cook out of the picture.