Alastair Cook Is a Good England Captain: 5 Reasons Shane Warne Is Wrong
England may have wrapped up the Ashes series 3-0 with a game to play, but that hasn't stopped the sniping at the way England went about victory.
Iconic Australia leg-spinner Shane Warne has been scathing about the captaincy of England's Alastair Cook.
In his Daily Telegraph column, he suggested that Cook is negative and that England won the fourth Test at Durham and series in spite of Cook's leadership, rather than because of it.
[David] Saker and [Andy] Flower knew England were losing the Test largely because of the captain's approach but the tea interval came at the right time for England.
He had a deep point, would move slips out as soon as there was a good shot through the covers and the bowlers were bowling too short and not full and at the stumps.
When such a natural reader of the game as Warne criticises the decisions a captain makes, his reasoning deserves consideration.
And he's right inasmuch as Cook has routinely been a defensive captain. He often sets fields deep even when his side has the momentum, he removes fielders from catching positions earlier than some of his rivals do in similar situations, and it often feels like games can drift for spells under his watch—the failure to end the 10th-wicket partnerships in this series being a prime example.
But the evidence that Cook is a bad captain simply doesn't stack up—and here's the proof.
Andy Flower Describes Him as 'Outstanding'
If there were doubts about Alastair Cook's leadership, his coach Flower went to lengths to dispel them in the wake of Warne's comments.
In words reported by the Independent, Flower said that Cook's composure had mattered when England were struggling in the fourth innings at Durham:
I was present in the dressing room at the time but, to be quite frank, this is one of those instances where we don't talk about what we said. I won't talk in any detail about it but in those sorts of situations at 120 for 1, those are the instances where you need strong and decisive leadership and Cook showed that.
If Michael Vaughan deserves praise for appearing calm in the infamous 2005 Edgbaston Test, which England won by two runs, then so does Cook for the way he handled the tense finish at Trent Bridge—the poise he showed when the match was slipping away from England at Chester-le-Street.
Cook's Teammates Have Praised Him
You don't have to pay tribute to your skipper if you don't like the way they do things—Kevin Pietersen heard that telling silence during his brief stint as England captain.
Half the battle as captain is to have your players on your side, and, from the way Cook's peers talk, they are impressed with the way he runs the team.
Graeme Swann took time to praise Cook's captaincy in his column in The Sun (paywalled, h/t Eurosport):
I think most praise should go to Alastair Cook. What a start he has had to his Test captaincy career. In less than a year, Cookie has led England to our first series win in India for 28 years and become an Ashes-winning skipper.
I know there are people saying he is too negative but I stand next to him in the field at second slip and know what goes on in his mind - he is very calculating.
He is both aggressive and defensive when he needs to be. That makes him an excellent captain.
Ian Bell said much the same. He also talked of the value of Cook's leadership off the field.
"It would be hard to overstate how important Cook's influence has been in our dressing room and on my own batting," Bell wrote for Cricinfo.
Cook's Batting Has Been Excellent
Yes, his run of form with the bat in the last four Test matches has been fairly uninspiring.
Despite three half-centuries in the series to date, Cook has not hit the heights he has managed over the course of his remarkable career.
However, regardless of that dip, Cook's record with the bat as captain remains exceptional, especially in a role where historically his peers have struggled to maintain their personal form as they led the team.
Not long ago, there were discussions about what batting records Cook might go on to break—aged just 28, there's no reason to think he's off track for any of them.
Cook's Captaincy Record Is Remarkable
Heading into the fifth Test, Cook has led England in 15 Tests and has recorded nine wins, five draws and a single defeat.
When we debate Cook's style in the job, we are discussing the captaincy record of a man who has already led England to a series victory in India (for the first time in 28 years) and an emphatic Ashes triumph, and he has been on the losing side just once.
Here's his record as skipper in full, via Cricinfo's Statsguru tool:
|won||181 runs||lost||1st||v Bangladesh||Chittagong||12 Mar 2010||Test # 1954|
|won||9 wickets||lost||2nd||v Bangladesh||Dhaka||20 Mar 2010||Test # 1956|
|lost||9 wickets||lost||2nd||v India||Ahmedabad||15 Nov 2012||Test # 2058|
|won||10 wickets||lost||2nd||v India||Mumbai||23 Nov 2012||Test # 2062|
|won||7 wickets||lost||2nd||v India||Kolkata||5 Dec 2012||Test # 2065|
|draw||-||won||1st||v India||Nagpur||13 Dec 2012||Test # 2066|
|draw||-||lost||1st||v New Zealand||Dunedin||6 Mar 2013||Test # 2077|
|draw||-||lost||1st||v New Zealand||Wellington||14 Mar 2013||Test # 2080|
|draw||-||won||2nd||v New Zealand||Auckland||22 Mar 2013||Test # 2084|
|won||170 runs||won||1st||v New Zealand||Lord's||16 May 2013||Test # 2088|
|won||247 runs||won||1st||v New Zealand||Leeds||24 May 2013||Test # 2089|
|won||14 runs||won||1st||v Australia||Nottingham||10 Jul 2013||Test # 2090|
|won||347 runs||won||1st||v Australia||Lord's||18 Jul 2013||Test # 2091|
|draw||-||lost||2nd||v Australia||Manchester||1 Aug 2013||Test # 2092|
|won||74 runs||won||1st||v Australia||Chester-le-Street||9 Aug 2013||Test # 2093|
It Bears Repeating: Cook's Captaincy Record Is Remarkable
England have been blessed with more success in recent times than they have enjoyed in a while. So when Cook's record compares favourably to his recent predecessors, they are the sort of figures you should take seriously.
Nobody on the England team is pretending there are not flaws in the batting, or even that there are some captaincy choices from Cook which are less than effective.
But if this is Cook's learning curve and the results are this encouraging, then there is every reason to be optimistic about his tenure.