Alastair Cook is determined to carry on as England captain despite his side’s latest lamentable performance in Melbourne. Cook appeared shell-shocked as he answered questions at his post-match press conference after England’s miserable tour had hit a new low at the MCG. But there are many who believe the decision on whether he should remain captain should be taken out of the Essex opener’s hands.
Most vocal among his dissenters is Geoffrey Boycott. ‘Sir Geoff’, has he’s known in his native Yorkshire, is never short of an opinion but believes Cook’s position as captain will come under greater scrutiny if he cannot improve his own personal form. The 29-year-old has reached 50 in the last two Tests but has still been a long way below his usual standards in Australia and certainly wouldn’t be the first England captain to suffer a loss of personal form after taking over the on-field reins.
Boycott didn’t lay all the blame for England’s Ashes failure on Cook, but rather a collective lack of spirit and technique. While congratulating Australia on regaining the Ashes, you have to be honest and say this is a long way from a good Australia side. There isn’t a Dennis Lillee, Glenn McGrath or Shane Warne in their ranks. Indeed, it’s more-or-less the same team already beaten three times by England in the last three years. The visitors have let themselves be bullied by a quick-but erratic Mitchell Johnson and to get themselves bowled out by uninspiring spinner Nathan Lyon at the MCG was unforgivable. As Boycott says of England,”Mentally, physically, they’re just down, their spirit is broken.”
Former England spinner John Emburey was also critical of the leadership on the tour from Andy Flower and batting coach Graham Gooch and encouraged Cook to be more forthright on the field. “I don’t think we’ve been well led in this series,” he said. Their continued involvement in the England set-up may well depend on the outcome of the final Test, which starts in Sydney on Friday.
No doubt the loss of Jonathan Trott and Graeme Swann during the tour has impacted performances, though you could argue that the rot had set in long before those two departed. There is talk of changing things around in Sydney. Jimmy Anderson is probably nearing the end of his career and we’ve seen nothing of Steven Finn, Chris Tremlett or Boyd Rankin. They can’t have been impressing in the nets as all should have been suited by Australian pitches. But who would take over should Cook be sacked or walk away? Selectors wouldn’t go back to Kevin Pietersen and T20 skipper Stuart Broad has no experience of leading a side in anything but limited overs. I’m not sure Ian Bell would want the job while Matt Prior‘s Test future looks in doubt.
Australia look worthy general 4/6 favourites to complete a whitewash in Sydney with Mitchell Johnson, surely already assured of the man-of-the-series award, 2/1 with Paddy Power to take most wickets in the match again for his side. Stuart Broad is 12/5 with the Dublin firm to be England’s leading wicket-taker in the final Test. Paddy Power are still paying double odds if you correctly back a team’s top run scorer and he goes on to complete a century.