Alastair Cook: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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Alastair Cook cut a forlorn figure for much of the Test series away in India with his haunted demeanour reminiscent of many of his predecessors as England captain when they knew their time had come.

It is therefore no surprise that he has decided to stand down to allow Joe Root to bed in ahead of the Ashes this winter.

The captaincy has never sat easily with England’s record Test run-scorer and yet, despite its inglorious ending, he has overseen his fair share of triumphs.

Cook captained England a record 59 times while his 24 wins puts him joint-second for England alongside Andrew Strauss and behind only Michael Vaughan (26 wins). He won two home Ashes series as well as beating South Africa and India in their backyards.

Arguably his finest moment as England captain came in his first series as permanent skipper when he led England to a 2-1 win away in India in 2012. It ended England’s 28 year wait for a series win in India with Cook leading from the front with three hundreds and the Player of the Series award.

And yet, he has never fully convinced in the role.

There was always plenty of ammunition for the doubters, whether it was being whitewashed Down Under in 2013/14, losing at home to Sri Lanka, or looking completely bereft of ideas in India this winter.

And with 22 defeats from his 59 Tests in charge, Cook is England’s most defeated captain in Test history.

As pundit after pundit were at pains to make clear as England were overwhelmed by India, Alastair Cook the captain has always made mistakes but finds a way to get the job done more often than not.

He is not an instinctive or tactical captain nor is he a brash in your face presence. He is loath to gamble and will seek comfort in familiar patterns rather than roll the dice.

It is a measure of his other qualities and his presence at the top of the order that he has lasted so long. He is almost superhumanly stubborn and strong-willed. His determination has pulled England out of many a dark spot. However when he could no longer rely on his batting prowess the going got tougher still.

2016 started so promisingly for England’s Test side as they won in South Africa and had one eye on returning to top spot in the Test rankings. Yet it gave way to an error-strewn year in which England lost eight Tests, equalling their record number of losses in a calendar year.

This recent run and the severity of England’s losses in Asia has only served to magnify Cook’s shortcomings as a captain. Shortcomings which were always there.

It is unfair to blame Cook solely for England’s stumbling year as poor selection, missed chances and profligate batting are also to blame.

However, the crop of exciting young players in and around the Test team look to the captain for leadership and direction. Someone to take their cue from. After a punishing four years in charge Cook felt that person could no longer be him.

At 32, Alastair Cook the batsman still has plenty to offer England. But it is right that he has stepped down as captain now to allow Joe Root to take charge and mould the team in his own image.

How will history judge Cook’s time in charge? It is hard to tell right now but what with the Pietersen saga, batting collapses galore and the emergence of some world-class talent, at least it was far from dull.