Until Alastair Cook makes a century people will continue to call for his head as England captain. However, for several reasons, these people are simply wasting their breath.
They are not wasting their time by arguing that Cook is not producing with the bat; that fact is there for all to see. Cook has 25 Test hundreds, but he has now gone 23 innings since his last one against New Zealand at Headingley in 2013. More than a calendar year without a ton is pretty damning evidence that Cook is underperforming.
Cook’s Test average is an impressive 46.07. In the 23 innings since his last century, however, he has only averaged 25.8 with seven single-figure scores. The events of the last year seem to have taken their toll on the England captain.
It’s not only his batting that has come under close scrutiny, but his captaincy too; the Essex man has come to be regarded as a cautious and, in many minds, negative captain. Cook is evidently struggling under the weight of this criticism, recently calling for “something to be done” about what he perceived to be personal attacks on his captaincy by Shane Warne.
However, despite the indisputable evidence of his poor form, and the grumblings about his guarded captaincy, Alastair Cook will not be dropped. This unspoken truth stems from the ECB’s handling of the Kevin Pietersen fiasco and the new era of English cricket it has brought about in which there are few viable alternatives.
The ECB, after siding with Cook over Pietersen in Australia, have given their firm backing to the Essex opener. After taking what they felt was a bold and strong move, they will be hugely reluctant to backtrack from this position. Replacing Cook means an admission of error for the ECB; A new era that has ended before it has even begun.
The ECB’s hands are somewhat tied in this new dawn for the English game. The changing of the guard saw not only Pietersen depart, but the experience of Jonathan Trott and Graeme Swann too. This left England with only four players assured of their places in the Test side: Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad and James Anderson.
With bowlers seemingly undesirable Test captains in the minds of the ECB, this leaves only Cook and Bell as viable leadership options. Were the selectors to decide Cook was not pulling his weight in the team, they would have to turn to Ian Bell. As the Warwickshire batsman is stepping up the order to fill the Pietersen void, it would be a massive ask for him to take up the captaincy mantle as well.
Add into this equation that Cook now forms the experience in a new opening pair and you can see that England have little choice but to wait indefinitely on their captain’s return to form. Removing a man who has played 104 Tests from a top six that includes three new men in Sam Robson, Gary Ballance and Moeen Ali would be unthinkable.
Alastair Cook is a supremely talented cricketer going through a particularly turbulent period. England should stick with their captain not just because the situation demands that they have to, but because they should show support to their leader. Alastair Cook’s Test record demands that he be given time, the state of English cricket will ensure he gets it.