Monday, February 6, 2017

Captain Cook sets sail on England

Alastair Cook has a unique ability to attract critics.

With Social Media going into meltdown, rejoicing him announcing standing down as England Captain on Monday.

It highlighted the perception of Cook, never fully appreciated for his dedication and large role in remarkable England successes but always dissected and heavily critiqued for any failures.

2016 was a watershed in his demise culminating in what was perceived as an embarrassing away series draw to Bangladesh and humbling 4 nil smashing at the hands of India.

The last Test collapse in Chennai, where they scored 477  batting first but still lost by an innings losing 104/9 in the third innings on a true batting pitch, a standout.

With the lack of resilience and fight in the group that was symbolic under Cook so absent.

Cook seemed to sniff this out and decided to go.

Pointing to the sense of duty that defined Cook, always putting England first and doing what he deemed was in its best interest.

The current group is full of free-spirited attacking types like Johnny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes dictating a more charismatic and imaginative leader to tap into their natural urges to bring their abilities to defining fruition.

Over to you Joe Root, the logical replacement.

Who in a brief foray leading in India while Cook was off the field commandeered one of the few phases of play where England rankled the hosts.

Cook's departure now is ideal in its timing.

With it giving Root plenty of time to mould the group in the lead into an Ashes defence in Australia starting in November. "

Home series against a very tough South African unit as well as the West Indies will allow Root to get his feet wet and mould the group.

The delicious irony is in the infancy of Root's leadership is the perfect gift given to him by his predecessor.

In the form of Cook being freed of the acidic pressure of leading England to focus solely on his batting.

It is often lost on all just how young Cook is due to him seemingly being in the game for a virtual eternity.

At 32, the opener is in the peak years of his career and a return to form will be the perfect rock for England to rebuild around.

Root moving to 4

The Indian tour might have been a debacle in its result but offered a few glimpses of hope for the future.

At the top of the order Haseeb Hameed displayed to all why he is known as 'Baby Boycott' before having to leave the tour due to a hand injury. His replacement Keaton Jenning's also showed a sense of belonging with a remarkable debut century where he displayed a range of skill set in playing spin stunning all

The legacy is the opportunity it affords England to kill two birds with one stone.

Moulding their batting line up around a top three of Cook in the opener spot and inserting either Hameed/Jennings in the three spot. It would allow Root to move to a freer role at number 4 ending the musical chairs impersonation with the role.

It might finally turn Root's obvious ability into defining stats.

A seemingly absurd thing to say when Root averages 52,8 from 53 Tests but his conversion rate of making centuries when getting to 50 defies his batting mastery.

A comparison with contemporaries highlights this:

Joe Root, 53 Tests, 27 50's, and 11 100's

Virat Kohli, 53 Tests, 14 50's and 15 100's

Steven Smith,50 Tests, 20 50's and 17 100's

Take a moment to think how defining it could be to England if Root turns more 50's into 100's?

Rounding out the top 6 would be Johnny Bairstow at 5 and Ben Stokes at 6.

Specialist Keeper

Bairstow has been remarkable in the dual role as keeper/batsman affording the opportunity for the team to play Jos Buttler as a dangerous floater in the order. With the maverick Buttler offering the team a real X-factor with his deadly dangerous batting.

The oil in the ointment is a clash between cricketing 'maybe' and 'certainty'

In the wings young Ben Foakes awaits, a brilliant young gloveman and very resolute batsman.

If England inserted Foakes at 7 in preference of Buttler, it would give the team an upgrade of Bairstow's keeping skills while affording him the opportunity to fully focus on his batting at 5.

Giving England the dual potential of the best top 6 in Test cricket rounded out by the games best gloveman.

A Spinner picked for his Batting ability or Bowling ability

Moeen Ali is the quintessential enigma in Test cricket

With him a true Jack of all trades but master in none

His batting often brilliant but not trusted enough to dictate a place in the top 6 along with his off spin bowling which occasionally surprises but never fully ascends to defining.

Should England persist with the known of Moeen or invest in a more valid spinner?

The obvious choice is leg spinner Adil Rashid, who at times in India showed that he is worthy of investing in. Rashid's downside seems to be a feeling of not having the faith of his Captain, with it obvious at times that Alastair Cook was dim in his view of him.

Root's taking over the leadership might be the fillip Rashid needs to finally put it all together with the irony aside from the potential of his bowling being the threat of his batting.

He could quite easily be the dangerous tail end type that Graeme Swann was.

Pray for Mark Wood's Health 

With the quicks ability to swing the ball naturally/reverse late at speeds approaching 95mph, Wood could be anything.

Sadly, injuries have been cruel to him raising a question mark over his ability to stand up to the rigours of the game.

If he could, England would have a true bowling spearhead.

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