Prior steps down, calls for Cook`s sacking grows

London: Struggling wicket-keeper Matt Prior became the first victim of England`s humiliating defeat against India at the Lord`s when he decided to virtually retire even as the calls for removing skipper Alastair Cook grew louder on Tuesday.

Prior took the decision to step down from the team for the rest of the series mainly because of his woeful form and injuries, saying he was not doing justice to his job.

Cook`s batting failure -- he has scored only 115 runs in his last seven innings -- coupled with poor captaincy has prompted several former cricketers to call for his ouster.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan said Cook had the potential to score 13000 Test runs but if he continues to struggle like this, it may spell doom for his career.

"I know the England and Wales Cricket Board has invested a lot of time and effort in Cook`s captaincy but sometimes you have to accept that something is not working. Stubbornness is a useful character trait when you are an opening batsman. But when it comes to decision-making, it can be damaging," Vaughan wrote in his column for Daily Telegraph.

"..somewhere deep down, I believe Cook wants the selectors to step in and pull him out of the fire, before it gets so hot that we lose him for good. This is a man with the capacity to score 13,000 Test runs.

Vaughan suggested that Cook should be given a break from the game to rejuvenate himself just like some of the greats did in the past.

"For me, Cook would be best off taking a six-month break and chilling out with his family. Shane Warne missed a year of cricket in 2003 thanks to the diet-pill controversy, and some of his best performances came after that suspension. Geoff Boycott skipped a lot of series during his many years with England and look how many runs he finished up with."

"Resting him now might look like a harsh decision, as if you were shooting down a loyal servant. But in fact it would be a kindness to protect Cook from the strain that comes with representing England day-in, day-out. I want to see him play another six years of Test cricket."

Former England opener Boycott was also firm in his view that it`s time for Cook to go but questioned the courage of the selectors to take such a step.

"Now that Alastair Cook has declined to give up the captaincy for the benefit of the team, will the England set-up have the balls to sack him?," Boycott wrote in his column for the same paper.

"It is important that the selectors do not become stubborn and stick with Plan A in an effort to avoid embarrassment. We all make mistakes and there is no shame in admitting they got this wrong."

Boycott went to the extent of saying that England`s selectors should be sacked if they don`t remove Cook.

"It might sound harsh to say it, but neither Alastair?s feelings nor anyone else?s should come into the equation; this is about what is best for English cricket. We cannot afford to do nothing; it is not acceptable.

"I fear that James Whitaker the chairman of selectors is going to just stick his head in the sand and carry on hoping for Cook to make runs and the cricket to change. It will not happen. Leadership is about making big decisions. And if our selectors cannot or will not make those decisions then Downton, as managing director, should sack them."

Boycott was baffled why England players kept pulling and hooking the short balls and fell into India`s trap.

"It is as if England have no direction and there`s no common sense in the dressing room. Cook needs to go as captain and maybe stay for one more Test as a batsman only. In the famous Ashes series of 1981, Ian Botham resigned the captaincy after making a pair at Lord`s, releasing all the mental pressure on himself, and then went out and performed heroics at Headingley. Maybe the same process could work for Cook."

Boycott said Prior deserved to go even as he was not much hopeful from his possible replacement.

"Prior`s wicketkeeping is not special and you get the impression that he needs to go and rest his injuries. He has been playing only partly fit and he is not moving very well for catches or byes. I realise that Joss Buttler and Jonny Bairstow may be no better with the gloves, but they cannot be any worse and we need to get some fresh blood in, some energy," Boycott said.

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