What a strange Ashes series this was for Alastair Cook - despite leading his team to a third consecutive series win, his first as captain since he replaced Andrew Strauss, the England opener has come under intense scrutiny.
Scrutiny and pressure are part and parcel of a captain's job, even more so in the case of England captain and even with England 3-0 up in the series, those who thought Cook would be given a free ride were left disappointed.
In truth, the England captain has deserved some of the criticism that went his way, particularly as far as his batting is concerned. Having piled up runs at an almost Bradmanesque rate during the 2010-11 series in Australia, Cook has failed to reproduce the same form at the crease, where he has often looked tentative and rarely in control.
The majestic 235 not out he posted in the second innings in Brisbane and the impressive 189 with which he led England to success at the Sydney Cricket Ground were a distant memory this summer, as Cook only managed to get past the half-century mark on three occasions, failing to score more than the 62 runs he notched in his first knock at Old Trafford.
From amassing a total of 766 runs two years ago, which led him to be nominated Player of the Series, Cook has regressed into averaging a paltry 27, a figure not good enough by his incredibly high standards and one that has failed to provide England with the solid foundations their innings require.
If the England captain struggled with the bat, he came under even more pressure for his on-field strategy and captaincy, often deemed too conservative and too focused on maintaining England's unbeaten record rather than on winning Test matches.
Nobody has been more critical of Cook's captaincy than former Aussie spin legend Shane Warne who, after the fourth Test in Durham, blasted Cook's negative tactics claiming that England had won the Test in spite of rather than because of their captain's decisions.
"The reason Australia had a chance was because of some bad bowling, some excellent batting and some very negative and defensive tactics from Cook. It stems back to the second innings in Manchester," Warne wrote in his column on The Daily Telegraph.
"It is as if England’s first aim is not to lose rather than try to win. Cook was way too cautious at the start of Australia’s run chase. He had a deep point, would move slips out as soon as there was a good shot through the covers and the bowlers were bowling too short and not full and at the stumps. They were trying to defend with the ball and build pressure waiting for something to happen.
"England won the Test because of some fine bowling and some poor shot selection, not because of brilliant captaincy."
Warne was critical of Cook's captaincy in the final Test too, when he labeled the England captain's choice not to reshuffle the top order as England looked to chase down 227 runs in 45 overs as overly conservative.
As it turned out, Kevin Pietersen's 62 off 55 balls had England on course for a thrilling finale before bad light forced the umpires to abandon the game, and yet, despite England's brilliant run-chase, Cook's captaincy was still the focal point of the discussion.
However, the England captain, who described his new role as "draining", would be more than happy to be subject to critics if his team keeps winning. Boring cricket, after all, might well be winning cricket.
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