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England vs Sri Lanka 2014: Defeat in home series a major setback for Alastair Cook

England captain Alastair Cook after losing the 2nd Investec Test match between England
A despondent Alastair Cook ponders on yet another setback as captain © Getty Images

England began their rebuilding process in Test cricket with the two-match Test series against Sri Lanka, but to start that with a loss is never a great sign. Moreover, it would hurt the English cricket and skipper Alastair Cook more as the defeat has come at home, in their own territory. As things stand today, it looks like there could be more trouble in store, feels Devarchit Varma.

Just before the start of the second and decisive Test match against Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook finally gave in and admitted that the repetitive attacks by Shane Warne is not helping things one bit. Cook said in an interview to the BBC, “Something needs to be done.”

Surely the captain’s words sent out the message that he is certainly not in the right frame of mind a captain should be. He is clearly troubled. He is perturbed with whatever that is being said about his captaincy. Cook had entered the Test with a lot of burden on his shoulders, but the way he put forward the discomfort that he has had with Warne’s persisting criticism also proved that his mind is elsewhere. Cook is concentrating on the negatives. His energy is getting drained on something that he doesn’t control.

England’s shambolic run in Test cricket continues with an embarrassing defeat to Sri Lanka in the second Test at Headingley, and with an all-important five-Test series against India impending, they have a huge task in hand. Not only they have to get their house in order to prepare for an Indian side that is completely different from the one that toured in 2011, but they have their main man — the captain — struggling.

If Cook wouldn’t have been the captain, England might as well have sent him back to County cricket to get some much-needed runs and confidence. But that isn’t an option here. In fact, Cook, who was the first to put his hands up to lead England’s rebuilding process, is the best man to be the captain of the side. England need nothing else but a happy and determined Cook — someone the world saw during the Ashes 2010-11 Down Under.

One may not believe it, but a major chunk of England’s worries lie in Cook. He has not changed his captaincy skills; neither is he trying out different things that could work for his side. Infusing new talent in the side under the umbrella of rebuilding is not the only thing, but there always has to be someone to guide them. Moeen Ali, a regular top-order batsman who unfortunately was England’s specialist spinner in the second Test against the players who are excellent against spin, kept on waiting for his chance to bowl on the fourth day when a determined pair of Angelo Mathews and Rangana Herath defied England’s bowling machinery.

The decision to not give the ball to Ali was a mistake, as the right-arm tweaker produced more opportunities than some of the top-notch England pacers produced. Certainly, Cook was wrong this time. And it was in Ali’s over only that Sri Lanka lost a wicket, albeit because of a run-out which could have been avoided.

Cook certainly needs to change the way he approach England’s captaincy. While his side failed to maintain the pressure built by James Anderson and Liam Plunkett at the start of the fourth day, the way some of the Decision Review System (DRS) calls were taken do not speak well about Cook’s leadership. The decision to hold back Ali was erroneous, so was to keep going for those frontline pacers who had thrown everything they had in their arsenal to get rid of the flourishing stand between Mathews and Herath.

England have lost a Test at home despite taking a first-innings lead of more than 100 runs. Their captain and batting mainstay Cook hasn’t scored enough runs in last couple of Test matches and he is struggling on the captaincy front as well. Despite a brilliant effort by Moeen Ali on the final day, England failed to save the Test and the series. This loss to Sri Lanka will surely be a nightmare, a major setback to England and Cook.

(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)

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