England captain Alastair Cook has been forced to field questions about his leadership ability.
Alastair Cook has rejected claims that his softly-spoken captaincy style has been a factor in England's comprehensive Ashes defeat to Australia.
Should Alastair Cook continue as England captain?
However, with England on the brink of a 5-0 series whitewash, the skipper has conceded he may have to get tougher and employ the "hairdryer" treatment that former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson used to motivate his team.
Cook is quoted by Sky Sports saying that he tries to find the right balance between being too hard or too soft instead of adopting one over the other:
There's always times when you need to use it and there's always times when you need to be sympathetic too.
That balance is the answer to being a good leader. I hope I can be firm enough when I need to be.
Asked if he had got the balance right this winter, he said:
"The results would suggest that I haven't done - but you would have to ask people who see us work behind the scenes whether I get that balance wrong.
Yes, I can get cross. But it's not my style to go ranting and raving.
A change in Cook's style of captaincy could be construed in two ways. It would either be seen as a sign of weakness and an unwillingness to stand by his decisions following criticism from Australian legend Shane Warne and former England cricketer Geoffrey Boycott.
Or it might be that, in the face of a humiliating Ashes defeat, he is showing his leadership ability by being able to hold his hands up and admit he has made mistakes in a last-ditch bid to help turn England's fortunes around and save some face in the final Test, which begins on Friday.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan has backed Cook's leadership style, and told BBC Radio Five Live that other senior players must be held accountable too.
Blasting his players may motivate them in the short-term, but it is very rare that this type of man-management works in the long-term and can often end up having a negative effect on results and dressing-room morale.
Ferguson famously employed this treatment on occasion, kicking a boot into the head of David Beckham, per BBC Sport, which caused a rift in the pair's relationship. His decision to jettison Roy Keane from the club following a controversial interview with MUTV also acted as a show of power, as reported by David Lynch in the Manchester Evening News.
But Ferguson was also renowned for his ability to handle star players and big egos individually, such as when he coaxed a last season out of Cristiano Ronaldo when the player had set his heart on a move to Real Madrid, per Andy Hunter in the Guardian. He also appeased Wayne Rooney when the striker first made it clear he was determined to force a move away from United, as reported by the Daily Mail.
If Cook is to prove wrong the people who doubt his ability then, like Ferguson, he must show an ability to manage the player or the situation and be variable in his approach.