“He leads from the front and lets his bat do the talking – he’s a better batsman now he’s captain – and he’s got the team united 100 per cent behind him, which I think is half the battle.” – Nasser Hussain on Alistair Cook as England Captain
That’s about everything that needs to be said about Alistair Cook. He won’t be talked about in the same breath as Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting in terms of captaining styles and how he goes about planning and plotting the oppositions’ downfall because he goes about his job in an understated manner.
He’s very effective and his record is testament to that fact. He has achieved what very few English captain’s have in a very brief career. He lead England to a Test series win in India in for the first time in 28 years. He helped England survive the harsh winter in New Zealand and thrashed them in home territory.
Alistair Cook has all the resources at hand to get a massive victory in the Ashes 2013 and bulk up his resume. He has the best pace bowling side in the world at his disposal in familiar conditions and a quality spinner to exploit Australia’s weakness.
Add to that, the turmoil that the Australian side has been through in the last year and you get the perfect recipe for a thrashing. The only thing that can prevent Cook from going into the books as the captain of an England side that won the Ashes is complacency. If Cook’s leadership skills are as sharply focused as his batting skills, then there is little to worry about.
The quality that makes Cook a special leader is the fact that he leads from the front. In the eleven Test matches that he has captained for England, he has scored seven Test centuries taking his overall number to twenty-five.
He was the top-scorer for England in 2010-11 when England lifted the trophy in Australia with 766 runs. The sheer magnitude of his contribution can be calculated by the fact that England’s second highest run-getter, Jonathan trott, was more than 300 runs behind. It is difficult to see how Australia can stop him from scoring again in a five-match Test series in home conditions.
Australia have a couple of young talented fast bowlers who will challenge him in Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson, but he has all the technical wherewithal to negotiate that challenge. His greatest asset is his temperament that allows him to remain composed under pressure. Australia will come with an extra dose of aggression in this campaign as Darren Lehmann has talked about it but one can bet upon one’s life that will not move the ice-cold campaigner that Cook is.
This composure also allows him to continue a good start to make it a big match-winning innings. Out of the 25 occasions on which he has made a ton, he has scored over 150 runs seven times. The fact that he makes these runs opening the innings makes him a greater asset.
There is no doubt that he one of the great batsmen in the modern day game but the doubts, if any, surround his approach as a captain. He is not the most aggressive of captains in Test cricket and tends to remain conservative in his approach to the game.
He has not been tested in tight circumstances which are a staple diet of Ashes viewers. Bob Willis talked about Cook’s captaincy style critically and said, “I think his captaincy on the field is still a little bit formulaic and he remains in the shadow of Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss on that score – his is a pretty conservative, safety-first approach – but you always have to remember that five-day cricket is a long road.”
It remains to be seen if that can hurt England at some stage.
The renewed passion of the Australians after the appointment of Darren Lehmann can be dampened by a first Test defeat. Anything else will only encourage Australia.
Alistair Cook has been on the right side of things with the English media but an early upset will create a media ruckus that will be difficult to deal with. Finding a weakness in his character though, is like finding a pin lost in a haystack. One thing we can be sure of that he will be the more assured captain going into the competition.