Alec Swann - A return to form can cure Cook’s ills

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

On Saturday afternoon in Leeds, England were 278-2 in their first innings against Sri Lanka.

They led by 21 with the power to add, Sam Robson had reached a maiden Test century and Ian Bell was playing with nonchalant ease.

The hosts should have had their sights set on 450 as a bare minimum to take complete control of the game.

Instead, a collapse reduced them to an under-par score of 365 and the eventual outcome was a gutting defeat to the penultimate ball of the match.

Of course, plenty happened between England’s first innings and the dramatic conclusion, and saying this would have led to that may not have ensured a different conclusion but on such matters do games, series and careers turn.

And when Jimmy Anderson succumbed to Shaminda Eranga on Tuesday evening, I wonder what was going through Alastair Cook’s mind.

The goodwill that existed towards Cook’s captaincy prior to the departure for Australia is now in very short supply.

His tactics are being ridiculed, his stance towards Kevin Pietersen is a dark cloud that won’t disappear, his form with the bat is nowhere to be seen and his side managed to let Sri Lanka, who usually travel as well as a chronically car-sick toddler, leave with a series victory.

As with the England football manager, the attention afforded the captain of our national cricket team is disproportionate but that’s not going to change any time soon.

Cook’s rigidity as a leader, barely noticed when his charges were getting the better of India and Australia, is being highlighted time and again and until England get back to winning ways he will never shake off such a tag.

If he doesn’t change he’s too stubborn and if he does then he won’t be staying true to himself.

In that regard he really can’t win but what he can do is return to the kind of prolific output that has established the Essex man as a world-class opening batsman.

Mike Brearley he ain’t and if his style is to lead from the front, then he has got to do exactly that.

The pressures of leadership, it’s hard not to believe, must be having some kind of impact on his playing role but he’s done very well with the bat while in charge previously and that can be the case again.

It’s all very well saying get rid but with the lack of decent alternatives, that may not accomplish much at all.

Cook’s the England captain now and he will be when the series against India gets under way next month.

Should the hosts come out on top over the five matches and Cook gets back to scoring plenty then all of the clamour for his removal will seem a long time ago.

But at the moment, I doubt whether he has the same opinion.