Australian great Shane Warne has slammed Alastair Cook’s captaincy as “boring”.
England’s former Ashes nemesis warned the Three Lions captain to adopt a braver, more exciting approach, or expect more defeats of the kind that have plagued England over the winter.
Cook bore the brunt of criticism for the Aussies’ 5-0 victory Down Under, despite having guided England to an easy triumph just months earlier in the home series.
Now, the Essex batsman must also contend with doubts about whether he is able to balance the captaincy with his own performance, as he has struggled for runs since taking over the role from Andrew Strauss.
Even mild-mannered Strauss has criticised Cook in the past for not being enough of a dominant force in the dressing room, though in recent months he has faced the contradictory accusation that he has acquired too much power, as was manifest in his handling of the popular Kevin Pietersen’s sacking.
The England hierarchy, on the other hand, evidently have faith in Cook. As England start their new era, the ECB would have had the perfect opportunity to replace Cook had they felt it necessary.
Their faith is not shared by Warne, though, who told The Daily Telegraph that “England’s style of play will be a reflection on Cook’s mindset". The former Aussie spinner questioned Cook’s insistence on building up pressure slowly, and cited England’s Ashes calamity as proof that the captain’s tactics do not work.
“Test cricket has evolved rapidly and Cook must sense the moment”, Warne went on.
Meanwhile, Cook has come out in defence of his captaincy, saying criticism was simply “the nature of the beast” of being a professional sportsman.
His role in team selection is particularly under fire at present, as in spite of talk of a new era and handing Test debuts to Moeen Ali, Chris Jordan, and Sam Robson against Sri Lanka, his approach is still seen as too conservative. Many at Lord’s would have liked to see Jos Buttler selected over the veteran Matt Prior, who has struggled for fitness, but admittedly played well on day one against Sri Lanka.
The batting order has come under the most scrutiny, as Ian Bell did not come in until number four, while the completely inexperienced Robson opened alongside Cook. Root was also pushed down the order, though that proved to be the correct decision, as he hit a double ton England recover.
For the moment, head coach Peter Moores will perhaps be thankful that he is being given a second chance at the helm, including by England’s accepting fans. For Cook, however, question marks remain over how many more defeats his captaincy can endure.