Alastair Cook’s fortitude in adversity forging him into ‘special’ captain
Peter Moores believes the “really tough ride” that experienced over the eight long months between the start of last winter’s Ashes mauling and the first win in 11 Tests in Southampton could be remembered as a key phase in his development into a “special” England captain.
Cook was smiling again at Old Trafford on Saturday evening, after a second consecutive victory that takes his record as captain to 11 wins from 27 Tests, and lifted his England team back into the top three of the official world rankings.
This time he even secured a stump as a souvenir, having missed out at the Ageas Bowl to the six players who had enjoyed their first Test victory. He conceded that England had been “pretty much at rock bottom” after the second Test defeat by India at Lord’s less than three weeks earlier, their seventh in 10 matches, saying: “That was a tough moment for us as a side – you run out of chances in my position.”
But Moores argues it was the mental toughness Cook showed during that period that confirmed the wisdom of England’s decision in sticking with him after the Ashes debacle.
“I think the significant point was when he came out and said he was in it for the long haul, he wanted to do the job,” said the restored national coach. “If people didn’t want him there, that was fine, he would move on – but he made pretty public his desire to captain England.
“He wouldn’t openly admit that at times he has had a really tough ride but often that can forge somebody into something special. Hopefully for Alastair that is the thing that is starting to come out a bit. He is very determined. The more people have had a go at him, the more he has said he is totally in for it.
“He has got a desire to lead. It doesn’t mean you don’t question yourself – that humility is the sign of a good leader. He has got those traits in him. Leadership is about getting people to follow you and to create opportunities for people, to create something. Cookie is very much into that. He is, deep down, a real carer. He wants the team to grow and create opportunities.”
Despite Cook’s failure in England’s only innings at Old Trafford, which extended his run of Test innings without a century to 30, the pressure has now switched to his opening partner Sam Robson, even though he has gone only seven innings since making a maiden Test century against Sri Lanka at Headingley.
“We know international cricket is a harsh environment,” Moores responded. ”You are judged by the game more than by anybody else. Sam has had an area where they have attacked him around off stump and they have got him out a few times. It is about how you adapt. He can draw on the fact he got a fantastic hundred at Headingley and he got a bit of a template of how he can play at this level. That template gives him something that tells him he can play against spin and seam. The key is how he responds.”
Moores was also happy to accept the invitation to praise the Old Trafford groundstaff with whom he worked closely in his five years as coach, but he was too diplomatic to criticise the absence of Manchester from next summer’s home Ashes series.
“It is one of the best cricket pitches I have come across in a long time,” he added, despite a match that lasted less than 200 overs. “It was going to give something for everybody … [but] it was a wicket that wouldn’t suffer fools. You had to be a good player. If you are a good player you’d survive on it – if you weren’t you’d find it hard work, bat or ball.
“The lads love playing here, no doubt about that. But as a coach you don’t always have the control over that. You play where you play.”
A consultation process has already begun for the allocation of international matches between 2017 and 2019, when England will stage another home Ashes series as well as the World Cup, and Lancashire remain hopeful that the quality of the Old Trafford pitch, and a ground capacity of up to 25,000, will outweigh the embarrassment over the drainage failure at the end of the second day.