Essex coach Paul Grayson has given his backing to under-fire England captain Alastair Cook.
Having impressed for the Chelmsford outfit in the early part of the County Championship season, Cook departed for Three Lions duty in the ODIs and Test series’ against Sri Lanka, but has since become the victim of what Grayson describes as a “witch-hunt”.
Defeat in the second and final Test against Sri Lanka at Headingley was England’s sixth from seven games, but Cook’s Essex boss insists the batsman has become a scapegoat for the side’s poor form.
Despite skippering England to a resounding Ashes success last summer, Cook’s fortunes have taken something of a downturn. However, though his leadership has been called into question following the 5-0 humiliation in Australia, he has had to contend with the losses of Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, and Graeme Swann, all of whom played key roles in England’s initial success.
Evidently, the side are going through a transitional period. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the strain of captaincy appears to have had an impact on Cook’s form, and he has averaged just 25 in his past 24 Test innings.
Indeed, his task has been made all the more difficult by a barrage of outside criticism, including from England legend Geoffrey Boycott, who claimed Cook’s recent batting statistics were a “recipe for resignation”.
Former Aussie spinner Shane Warne has also labelled Cook’s cautious approach to captaincy as boring, and has continued his attack on his one-time Ashes nemesis by imploring him to stand down from the role.
“On Monday at Headingley I witnessed the worst day of captaincy I have ever seen at international level in almost 25 years in the game”, said Warne.
Warne has led the calls for Cook’s resignation, but the skipper has finally been offered some support, with Grayson insisting he should be allowed some time away from his duties to see his family, rather than undertake more intensive work in the nets to improve his game.
"He'll be aware that he's made a few mistakes, but it's the responsibility of the group, the senior players, to get England out of a tricky hole," said Grayson.
"I know Cookie has given his heart and soul to Essex and England over the last 10 years. He's a rock solid bloke and he'll come back strong from this."
The Sri Lanka series just managed to slip out of England’s grasp; Peter Moores’ men were one wicket away from victory in the first Test, before losing the second with just two balls to go. Had those outcomes been different, Cook would have found himself under far less pressure.
As it stands, though, the India series could now be make or break, not only for England’s summer, but for Cook’s personal status. There is little respite, with the first Test getting underway in less than two weeks.
If Cook is to turn the corner, he must work past what he has described as “personal” attacks from those outside of his camp, and focus on getting England back to winning ways.
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