Cooky refuses to crumble

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Shamik Chakrabarty | Updated: Jul 27 2014, 08:14am hrs
If you cant support us when we lose, dont support us when we win: Sir Alex Ferguson. Alastair Cook is too introvert and mild-mannered a person to repeat the golden words of footballs greatest-ever manager, but, at the moment, he needs Sir Alexs resolve to combat the naysayers. Support for Cook is growing thin by the day and calls for a change are getting louder, with some very credible voices like Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain and Geoffrey Boycott joining the chorus. After all, England have lost seven of their last nine Tests under his charge. They lost to Sri Lanka at home before being bounced out by India at Lords. And to make matters worse, the skipper is going through the worst form slump of his career. But this correspondent wants him to stay, not only because hes a mighty fine player, but also for the fact that he brings a huge amount of dignity to the job. Hes a perfect role model on and off the field and its heartening to see that the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is standing by him in crisis.

Its very easy to criticise when the chips are down. Lending support in adversity requires the courage of convictions. The ECB is thinking long-term.

Cooks loss of form is Indias gain, but it would be insane to gloat over his plight and celebrate Englands free fall. Only a handful of countries play this game of glorious uncertainties and for popularitys sake, every Test-playing nation needs to be strong on the field, especially the super-elites: Australia, England and India. This is why Englands decline is a cause for concern for everyone who loves cricket.

The fans, however, have to accept the fact that this is a transitional phase for English cricket and rebuilding needs time. Jonathan Trott, Graeme Swann, Kevin Pietersen and now Matt Prior are all gone due to different reasons. Youngsters like Gary Ballance, Sam Robson and Moeen Ali have shown a lot of promise. Joe Root is maturing fast and is anchoring the middle-order. But none of them are finished products yet. They need Cook to guide them through.

Dont forget Cook is only 29 years old and has a good many years of cricket left in him. As a batsman, hes one of Englands greatest with 8,162 runs from 106 Tests at 45.34. Hes also the countrys all-time leading century-maker with 25 Test hundreds under his belt. His contemporaries hold him in high regard. Young players turn to him for advice. The England dressing room needs his presence.

Also, theres no replacement available. Agreed that the left-hander is not pulling his weight as a batsman with only 129 runs in his last nine Test innings, but vice-captain Ian Bell and T20 captain Stuart Broad are not shining bright either. Bell has scored 197 runs in his last nine innings, while Broad has taken just 18 wickets at 35.50 in his last five Test matches. Suggestions to hand over the reins to Eoin Morgan are perhaps a little too extreme. How can someone who is not considered good enough to get into the squad as a batsman lead the Test team This is 2014, not 1981. The game has changed.

Remember, Cook did the impossible in his first series as captain, coming back from 1-0 down to win a Test series in India. Then his England team gave arch-rivals Australia a 3-0 hiding last summer.

Things started to go downhill since the return of Ashes Down Under when Mitchell Johnsons thunderbolts battered the Poms and made them scared. Collapsing to Ishant Sharmas chin music was a carryover of the Mitch effect. England batsmen have become unsure against short ball and are trying to hit their way out of trouble without conviction. This, indeed, is a problem area which needs to be addressed properly by the team management. The players are struggling to regain self-belief and are wilting under pressure. England need to get back to winning ways to bury the ghost of the Ashes drubbing. The scars will take time to heal and the newcomers should be allowed at least one full season to settle down. Unfortunately, patience is often in short supply in modern-day cricket.

Every team suffers reverses during transition. India were whitewashed in England and Australia in 2011-12. The slide came on the heels of acquiring the ICC Test mace. Australia came to India last year, were hammered 4-0 and made themselves a global laughing stock following the homework-gate. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Cricket Australia (CA), however, had rallied around their skippers Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Michael Clarke, respectively, giving them time to build their own units for the future. Progress followed. India played well in South Africa and New Zealand, series defeats notwithstanding. Now theyve deservedly won at Lords. Australia bounced back with their Ashes triumph and then went to South Africa and won the three-Test series 2-1.

The ECB, too, is doing the right thing by supporting their captain. And hats off to Cook for the way he has been conducting himself in adversity. Not a single bad word to his detractors, no gag order or media ban in his press conferences and, most importantly, no chickening out like some of his less stubborn teammates. To paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill, in defeat, Cook is showing defiance.

If Im not good enough at the end of the summer, then so be it. Im trying my heart out to do this, but I need to score runs and we need to start winning. Im here as long as they want me. Ive got an inner steel, which Ive got to keep drawing on, said Cook during the post-match presentation at Lords. He knows full well that he has only three more matches to save his captaincy. Perhaps it would have been easier for him to throw in the towel and head abroad for a summer holiday. But like a true leader he has vowed to fight on.

For a batsman of his class, returning to form is just one big

innings away.