England vs Sri Lanka 2014: Alastair Cook certainly not in a comfortable state of mind as captain
Alastair Cook’s defensive approach in the first Test may have been the reason why England could not bag the win © Getty Images
Erroneous or well-thought, England captain Alastair Cook’s decision of not declaring their second innings on the fourth day of the Lord’s Test against Sri Lanka has certainly cost his side a match that they could have won. While the world will quickly move on to the next Test and the blunder at the home of cricket will soon be forgotten, but it may have a negative effect on Cook and England, says Devarchit Varma.
So, the comparisons between Michael Clarke’s aggressive leadership and Alastair Cook’s defensiveness stand vindicated. The erroneous decision to let a young lad, Gary Ballance, score his maiden ton — at the Mecca of cricket, no less — at the cost of the team earning extra time to bowl out the opposition was absolutely disastrous. The consequences would be dire too; amid this would be a lot of questioning about England’s tactics under new coach Peter Moores and skipper Cook, and also how the captain plans to take his team forward.
One must remember that apart from the developments taking place in English cricket today, the eyes of the cricketing fraternity are also on Cook’s leadership. The English captain had, in a determined manner, declined to step down after the debacle in Australia, and had wished to lead his side’s recovery. While it was pleasing to see Cook putting his hands up for the role and taking up the huge responsibility that was coming up, there was also a doubt in the minds of the critics and fans about whether he would bring about some change in the way he led his side.
Cook and England will have to pull up their socks as India would be better prepared and in shape for the tour that starts next month.
Going back to what transpired in the first Test against Sri Lanka at Lord’s, it looked as if Cook has not changed much when it comes to captaincy. Had he changed his style, Cook would have been a lot more aggressive than what he was at Lord’s, especially on the fourth day. There have been past instances of captains declaring the innings on several occasions despite their star players close to landmarks, but Cook’s plans at Lord’s seemed bizarre. Sri Lanka had bounced back well with the bat, and a repeat of their slip-up at Cardiff during the island nation’s last tour was highly unlikely.
One can always argue that Cook had trusted his pacers immensely; alternatively, he was possibly expecting Sri Lanka to crumble under pressure. But then, Cardiff happens only once in a blue moon with the top Test playing nations. Cook certainly underestimated the Sri Lankan batting firepower and bestowed a little too much trust on his pacers, on a track which he later went onto claim benefitted the Lankans more than the English. The fact that England waited for one of their young guns to get to his hundred must now feel like a thorn in the flesh to their fans, and there is certainly no immediate balm for it.
One cannot blame Shane Warne when he comes up with an opinion piece in one of UK’s leading newspapers that Cook is not aggressive with his captaincy. The English captain has no one but himself to blame for the debacle that transpired at Lord’s. Look at Clarke, the Australian skipper is never afraid to declare even in the first innings — like he did against India at 237 for nine in Hyderabad on their last tour. Clarke is aggressive by nature and playing to his strengths is something that helps his side.
Meanwhile, Sri Lankans have given enough scare to England. They not only matched the hosts with the bat but also caused lot of worries with the ball as well. Certainly, Cook and England will have to pull up their socks as India would be better prepared and in shape for the tour that starts next month.
Cook has lot to worry about.
(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)