Captain Cook: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Alastair Cook has captained England’s Test team permanently since 2012, but the 31-year-old opener is said to be questioning his leading role within the side.

Cook, opening batsman and England Test Captain, has enjoyed a highly successful four years leading his side, having captained England for the highest number of Tests and claiming the second most victories of any England Test Captain, only losing out to Michael Vaughan.

However, it is no secret within the press that Cook, after 58 matches, is considering handing over the reins. The England captain has admitted he is beginning to ask “questions” about his captaincy role and believes England’s starring batsman across the formats, Joe Root, is ready to be his successor.

Cook’s questioning of his role as captain undoubtedly comes from his own personal reasons (his wife giving birth to their second child shortly before the Bangladesh series), as well the two series defeats this winter to both Bangladesh and India.

Whilst a definite blow to the confidence of the Test playing side, England were always the underdogs when facing a strong Indian team on spinning subcontinent pitches and can consider the series loss inevitable.

The likes of Geoffrey Boycott and Michael Vaughan have called for the Essex batsman to stand down.

Although Cook showed a degree of inexperience in the early stages of his captaincy career, in the past couple of years the opener has gone from strength to strength in the way he has gone about his role and has proven his capabilities as a leader.

From a personal perspective, I would prefer to see Cook continue in his role as captain for a little while longer. Whilst Root is undoubtedly the next man in line for the role and a player whom I believe will come to be a very good captain, it is also true that in regards to the current state of the England test side, with two spots yet to be cemented, England are in greater need of Joe Root the batsman than of Joe Root the captain.

England are not far off having a settled Test side. The performances of both Haseeb Hameed and Keaton Jennings, have been one of the main positives that can be taken from England’s tour of India.

Whilst it would be foolish to suggest that these two have secured their places merely on a couple of performances on one tour, it is also true that those performances have displayed an abundance of talent and the ability to perform at the highest level.

If they can continue their form, when Hameed returns from his injury and when they face South Africa and West Indies this summer, then England’s batting line-up will look much more secure and threatening.

I am sure that when captaincy is thrust upon him, Root will take well to the role and maintain his own abilities, however captaincy affects players in different ways. When assigned the captaincy players seem to either blossom under the role in both their personal ability and as a leader; or their own performance is sacrificed due to the added weight of the responsibility.

With this in mind, for such a packed 2017 cricketing calendar I feel it would be unfair for the captaincy to be thrust upon Root. As one of the few players who is an integral part of all three formats, it is imperative that he should be able to lay sole focus on his performance with the bat in the coming months.

England will face one of their most challenging and packed years in their history, with an exceptionally long summer against two touring sides, the Champions Trophy and an Ashes tour down under at the end of the year.

With such important fixtures coming up, the need for a strong and seasoned leader is of the utmost importance in ensuring that England reach their full potential and do not burn out.

Whilst there is no doubt in my mind that Root would be a very competent and successful leader who already has the full respect of the dressing room, to give him the captaincy ahead of 2017 having not captained England before, would be beyond throwing someone in at the deep end.

Of course this all speculation. Cook and Cook alone knows what frame of mind he is in and whether or not he wishes to continue as captain. His decision, either way, will be fully respected within the dressing room and backroom staff. Trevor Bayliss has stated that Cook can keep his captaincy for “as long as he wants it.” Whether that will be after the tour of India or in the future, only time will tell.

Cook is set to discuss his role over the coming months with former captain and director of cricket Andrew Strauss before making a decision.

Laura Williamson

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