Life is like a toilet roll – the closer you get to the end the faster it goes. Not our words, dear reader, but those of someone else altogether. Who that is, we’re not exactly sure, but it might have been Andi Peters. Or possibly Wayne Rooney. Either way, it doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that we at 51allout must be pretty close to meeting our makers because Alastair Cook’s stewardship of Team England has come to an end despite the fact that, to us, it feels like it only started a few short months ago.
As a result, the time has sure come to reflect on what we’ve seen. And if we were to do that with a single word it would have to be this one: mixed. Unfortunately one word answers aren’t really Editor Steve’s thing, seeing as they tend to leave the page looking rather bare. Although it would leave more space for adverts, if anyone were even remotely interested in plugging their particular brand of tat to an audience quite literally in the tens.
Hence we’ll write a bit more, breaking the Alastair Cook experience down into the highs (basically everything involving Liam Plunkett), the lows (everything not involving Liam Plunkett) and the neither high nor lows (which would be the bits that we forgot to watch, which may or may not have featured Liam Plunkett).
There’s always been lots to like about Alastair Cook. In these terrifying times of Trump, Brexit and Marcus Stoinis ripping shit up, there’s a lot to be said for a man who represents all that was once good about the British Isles: an empire on which the sun never set, black and white episodes of Doctor Who and people carefully drinking tea out of very expensive china cups. But unfortunately for Captain Cook, he’ll be judged on the team’s results under him, rather than his (exemplary) manners.
That’s not to say there weren’t some good results under Cook – there were fine away wins in India and South Africa plus a slightly unexpected Ashes win at home in 2015. There were just too many poor results scattered in there to really present a glowing endorsement of the captain.
Of course Cook can only work with what he has to hand. And it’s not unfair to say that he generally made the most of a fairly limited side, one permanently in transition from the Strauss/KP/Trott era to one more based around ginger players. Cook might not have handled his spinners all that well, but the fact they were largely crap certainly didn’t help.
And despite all the constant uncertainty around him – every time he started an innings the bloke at the other end was under pressure, at least until Haseeb Hameed and Keaton Jennings arrived for that final fateful tour – Cook carried on serenely. If we could sum up his unflappability in just one way it’d be by comparing his batting average as captain (46.57) and not as captain (46.36). In many ways it seems like Cook’s career has happened entirely independently of everything around it, like Monty Panesar and his one Test repeated 50 times over.
With the nice things out of the way, we can get on with sticking the boot in. Cook’s conservative approach to captaincy completely failed to catch the imagination of the general public. Cook simply wasn’t imaginative enough (see Michael Vaughan), successful enough (Andrew Strauss) or popular enough (Andrew Flintoff) to ever satisfy the haters. We doubt there’s a single person out there who started out not liking Cook but grew to love him because of his safety-first approach to captaincy. And, of course, as soon as England weren’t winning it became Cook’s problem.
In many ways Cook was a victim of a change in how cricket is played these days, becoming the first England captain to learn on the job, a trend set to continue for ever more now that players basically stop playing domestic cricket (let alone captaining) the moment they become part of Team England. With no experience to fall back on, it’s a question of simply doing the best they can, something Cook can’t ever be accused of not doing.
And then there’s the matter of his place in the ODI side. Without wanting to exaggerate, Alastair Cook basically held England back for years and getting rid of him was the best decision they ever made.
Like we said, there were lots of bits that we didn’t really watch. So it’s rather hard to comment on them. So here’s an amusing picture of Cook instead:
We’re actually looking forward to Joe Root (hopefully) being a little more imaginative and inventive with his decision making. Basically, anything but giving Moeen Ali the last over before lunch will be a step forward. In the meantime, Cook can concentrate on scoring around 46 and a half runs per dismissal without having to come up with a plan B when Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson fail to skittle the opposition with the new ball. There should be a fair few runs left in him yet and, with a settled partner at the other end and a solid number three, it’d be nice to see England get back to making daddy hundreds and laying the foundation to actually win matches, instead of being 25/3 every bloody innings.