Cook didn’t shy away from talking up the captaincy prospects of his likely heir, Joe Root.
Chennai: Little would England cricket team have predicted that the sub-continental odyssey they undertook under the care of the worldly-wise Captain Cook would take a steep descent into the netherworld of doubt and uncertainty, in the manner that it has. Stooping heads, drooping shoulders and that familiar ally in the now constant sinking feeling in a faraway alien territory have thus far been the defining themes and abiding images of their tours of Bangladesh and India.
The onset of the rot that was engineered by a 19-year-old in Mehedi Hasan Miraz in Dhaka on October 30, has devolved into a full-blown crisis with a 30-year-old leading practitioner of his trade in R. Ashwin being the bane of their life, scalping 27 wickets in four Tests with the fifth slated to begin at his home ground on Friday.
And if you could cast your mind back to exactly eight years ago to the day — December 15, 2008 — was when India last won a series against England before being outplayed in the subsequent three assignments. And, in what the Chennaites would like to reckon as more than a mere happenstance, the venue of that improbable victory, which India won chasing a daunting 387, was the same ground that will see the two teams do a pitched battle come Friday the 16th.
Their captain Alastair Cook, who is the lone surviving member of that team, continues to vacillate — much like the notoriously fickle English weather — between honourably stepping down and clinging on to the post. Even during the pre-match press conference, Cook didn’t shy away from talking up the captaincy prospects of his likely heir, Joe Root. “Root has handled every challenge thrown at him expertly. He possesses a good cricketing acumen and it doesn’t look like he can be fazed by anything,” said the 31-year-old. The incumbent skipper, though, stopped short of suggesting that he is ready to relinquish his captaincy robes to live the life of an ordinary foot soldier and he is proposed to have talks with the managing director Andrew Strauss to chalk out plans for the team.
Cook, who will have to do without the services of their premier fast bowler James Anderson for the fifth Test owing to body soreness, refused to apportion blame to any one member of his team for the chastening scoreline. “It’s not for want of effort that we ended up losing. I can’t criticise the togetherness of my team. In hindsight, we would have done certain things differently. We would look to end the Test-leg of the tour on a high and although we were able to compete with India, we struggled to seize the opportunities,” added Cook.
Not one to hide behind a fig leaf of hoary excuses, Cook graciously owned up to any shortcomings of his leadership. “You get judged on your results as a captain. It’s obvious that when the results go against your team, the captain will have to cop much of the flak. You will live and die by your decisions and its par for the course,” observed Cook.
With the spectre of another debilitating defeat on the horizon, England would be eager to get back home in one piece before they could piece together the reasons for their harrowing South Asian sojourn.