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By Robert Leslie
Leicester: Jun 26, 2014
Duncan Fletcher was England coach when the then 21-year-old Cook was flown halfway round the world from an A tour in the Caribbean to open the innings in his maiden Test against India in Nagpur.
The Essex left-hander responded with a second-innings century, the first of his England record 25 Test hundreds.
However, Cook has not scored a Test ton for 24 innings, a sequence that now extends to more than a year, and found both his technique and tactics under scrutiny as England succumbed to a 100-run defeat by Sri Lanka in the second Test at Headingley on Tuesday — a result that gave the tourists a 1-0 win in a two-match series.
The Sri Lanka reverse followed a 5-0 Ashes thrashing in Australia under Cook’s leadership and led to fresh questions about his suitability as captain.
But Fletcher, now in charge of India — England’s next opponents in a five-Test series that starts at Nottingham’s Trent Bridge ground on July 9 — compared Cook’s position to that of former Australia captain Mark Taylor, who went through a lean time with the bat before re-asserting himself.
Fletcher, a former Zimbabwe captain, recalled his initial impression of Cook as he spoke Wednesday on the eve of India’s opening three-day tour game against Leicestershire at Grace Road.
“There were two things that struck me,” he said. “Firstly, I thought he was a very intelligent cricketer who understood the game.
“I remember talking in one of the very first team meetings he came to — he’d just been flown across from the West Indies — and we asked about someone, and he quite confidently stood up and said ‘this player does this, and this player does that’.
“There are very few players prepared to commit to something like that at such an early stage in the England squad.”
- ‘Determined individual’ -
Fletcher added: “The next thing was that I think he’s a very determined individual. He’s very, very determined — which I think most opening bats have to be.”
Meanwhile Fletcher urged England to stick with Cook, citing how Australia ultimately gained from doing just that when Taylor, also a left-handed opening batsman, was struggling for runs in the early 1990s after a prolific spell.
“For however long he [Cook] has struggled, give me one player who hasn’t been through that period for that length of time,” Fletcher said.
“I remember Mark Taylor. How long did he not get a run for? Australia kept him on as captain.
“He went through a big period where he didn’t get any — and they kept him.”
Both England and India are in the process of rebuilding their respective teams.
India have won a Test series in England on just three occasions — 1971, 1986 and 2007 — but, on the basis of their hosts’ recent form, this upcoming campaign could represent an ideal chance to add to that list.
However, India captain MS Dhoni, one of just three players in an 18-man squad to have previously played a Test in England, said: “I still think England are a fantastic side.
“That means it will be a tough competition for us, and they know the home conditions better than us.”
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