England captain Alastair Cook has admitted that he needs to score some big runs in the five-match Test series against India, which began at Trent Bridge on Wednesday.
Runs to come
After poor performances in the winter and in the first series of the summer - a one-nil loss to Sri Lanka - Cook has found himself under extreme pressure as both England captain and opening batsman.
The Essex man has not scored a century since May last year against New Zealand at Headingly, and despite his average at Trent Bridge only being 21.5, he is confident he can rediscover his top form.
“This is a really big Test series - you don’t play many five-Test series. India are a really big side, there will be a lot of interest and we have got a chance to try and win a series,” he said.
“I never have felt that I have been hitting the ball particularly badly. I scored some runs for Essex at the beginning of the season. I have not managed to transform that into runs for England.
“I know how important it is to do that and I’m desperately keen to lead from the front and score some runs.
“As a batter you are in there as one of the top six batters in the country and your job is to score the runs to set up the match for England. It doesn’t matter if you are captain or not.
“I haven’t been doing that over the last year or so. Nobody is keener than me to put that right and I have worked very hard over these last 10 days.
“I have just got to make sure my mind is totally clear so I can concentrate on the most important thing, which is that ball coming down.
“One of the beauties of form, which nobody quite understands, is that you can feel a bit rusty in the first 20 minutes, half an hour, get a bit of luck and then you are back to where you were.
“No one understands why you have these peaks and troughs in your career. The better players have less peaks (and troughs) and are more consistent.
“I know I have got to score runs at the top of the order in this series.”
Captaincy under scrutiny
When asked if the pressures of captaincy were linked to his performances with the bat, Cook replied strongly, adding: "I can honestly say that, when someone is running in bowling at mid-80s to 90 miles per hour, it has never crossed my mind what field placings I am going to set to someone else. That doesn't happen.
"When you are in the field as a captain, your mind works overtime. Then you have to go and bat, but I don't see that as a problem. I never have done.
"I just need to go back to scoring runs."
There is no denying that Cook can perform as a batsman for England while being captain, with his average in his first Test series as captain - the 2-1 victory over India, in India - being an astonishing 80.28, but it has been downhill from there.
Whatever people's opinions are of Alastair Cook, there is no denying that he is one of the best ever batsman to put on an England shirt. He has already broken numerous records, and has the foundations to be the best batsman who has ever played Test cricket.
With all the criticism of his captaincy and recent dip in form, people forget that he is already England's top century makes, on top of being the youngest ever batsman to reach 8000 Test runs, younger even than the great Sachin Tendulkar.
So, what England need to be careful of is that they don't drive this great batsman into an irredeemable state, ruining a career which had the possibility of becoming the best one which ever was.
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