Tag Archives: cook

Why the ECB Should Recall Paul Collingwood for the World Cup

As the turmoil surrounding England’s ODI side unravels, a final throw of the dice could be to recall England’s most capped player, and former captain, Paul Collingwood.

There are many very valid reasons why this ODI legend deserves one last go. In an era of England being rubbish at ODI cricket, Collingwood was a gem in a sea of mud.

He holds a bucket of English ODI records.

Collingwood played 197 ODIs for England, which is the most by an Englishman in ODIs.

In those 197 ODIs, he scored 5092 runs, which is the most by an Englishman in ODIs.

If this wasn’t enough, he took 108 catches, which is the most by an Englishman in ODIs too

Infact, he was so good at catching, that 108 is 44 more than the 2nd place. He once took this stunner:

And this:

But not only that.

Collingwood also surprisingly holds the best bowling figures by an Englishmen, with 6-31 against Bangladesh.

In total, he took 111 ODI wickets, placing him at number 7 on England’s all time list.

Not bad for a batsman.

Essentially Paul Collingwood would offer experience of the ODI game, useful overs, still sharp fielding, and canny captaincy.

He is no Kevin Pietersen. He won’t strike fear into the opposition, nor will he dominate them. But he will fight.

That is what England lack right now.

FIGHT.

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Ok, so he has a good record. But he’s old and that was ages ago. What else could he give?

Well, he has pretty good captaincy experience. He was England’s captain during their ONLY ever International limited overs trophy, the World T20.

Infact, he even hit the winning runs.

And then he got to lift the trophy, which is not something many England captains have ever done. Oh go on. No England cricket captain has ever done that.

paul-collingwood-1394556136

What’s more, when he captained in those 25 games in ODI cricket, he maintained a batting average of 35.50, which is close to his overall career average of 35.36, so his batting clearly does not affect his ODI captaincy.

As a skipper, Collingwood won 11 out of 25, which is not as good a ratio as Cook; granted.

But, realistically, if Cook was being picked on the merit of his batting right now, he would not get in. Nor, most would hesitate to add, would Cook get into the ODI side on his captaincy.

England are clearly looking for someone to lead them, and score some runs.

If you needed another few reasons, Collingwood has an excellent record down under.

He scored three of his five ODI centuries in the 2006/07 Tri-Series, and averages over 40 down under. 

Again, granted, that was a long time ago.

But realistically, Cook has scored one fifty and no centuries in 10 matches against Australia, averages 29.83 in ODIs in 2014, and has scored just two ODI fifties since June 2013.

Recently, Alastair Cook outlined that he thought success at the World Cup was a bit far fetched, yet simultaneously adamantly says he won’t stand down as ODI skipper, saying ‘At this precise moment, I’m still hungry to do it.’

Cook is not in form, and is a drab and uninspiring limited overs captain.

Everything from the non selection of James Tredwell and Gary Ballance, to the structure of the order; having power hitters so low down that they are ineffective, defines Cook as a poor tactician and captain.

He is strong when he can lead from the front with the bat, but his career to date also suggests he struggles to do that, unless a more aggressive player can take off pressure.

England simply cannot turn up at the World Cup with captain Cook, and except anything other than humiliation and an early exit.

So what’s the alternative ?

Although Collingwood is a bit older, probably not as quick between the wickets or as athletic in the field, he offers calm.

He offers something that Cook will never have, and that is desire in ODIs.

Cook is not a natural ODI player. He clearly doesn’t enjoy or excel at it as much as Tests. Collingwood is the opposite.

Collingwood may be a risk, but Cook is a death sentence for World Cup prospects.

If England expect to lose under Cook anyway, then what is there to lose really?

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Examining Alastair Cook’s future and a potential new captain

The dire performance of England’s team specifically on day four of the second Test, was matched by the uninspiring vacuum of captaincy. Cook needs to re-assess his role in the side, and get back to his primary role of scoring runs.

Being reduced to 57/5 after just 26.2 overs whilst chasing 350 ate into every single England fan watching. In anticipation for what could be a painful summer that includes five Tests against India, it was the first sign that the winter was going to continue long into the summer.

Alastair Cook’s captaincy leaves a lot to be desired. He his not a natural tactician, nor is he seemingly attacking. He was happy to sit back and not attack Mathews on day four, over bowling his main seamers so they became ineffective, under bowling Moeen Ali, and generally lacking thrust.

Cook outlined very boldly in the last three years, he is no tactician. George Dobell described Cook as a tactician, as:

‘More mouse than Strauss; more phoney than Dhoni’, on ESPN Cricinfo

That is not flattering.

He is a strong captain arguably when he is batting well, but in the last year or two that has massively declined.

After averaging 84.27 in 2011, his runs in 2012 were at an average 48.03 and then down all the way to 33.92 in 2013 and around 15 this year so far.

Strangely before this Test at Headingley, England had played 23 Tests since South Africa in 2012, winning just seven, losing eight, and drawing eight.

It’s not good enough, and quite frankly, a significant portion of the blame must rest on the captain. England can no longer hide behind this being the new era. Cook has been in the job for a number of years, and has shown only in India, that he is a capable batsman and captain simultaneously. He needs to let go.

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We want our old Alastair Cook back please

At Headingley, Cook passed Geoff Boycott for all time English run scorers. He is around 60 runs behind one Kevin Pietersen.

This is a batsman that knows how to bat. But as outlined, his average has been steadily declining under the captaincy.

As his runs have dried up, so too have the teams results.

England must look at this situation and ask a question.

He is a once in a generation batsman, so why are we compromising his clear ability with captaincy, especially if he isn’t that good at captaincy.

The fact is, that when a sub continental side comes to England and teaches the home team how to bowl and captain on their own decks, there needs to be a serious assessment of tactics.

Cook is a nice person I’m sure. He is a sensationally talented player, nobody doubts it. But as a captain, he is about as inspiring as a lump of stale bread, and about as innovative as a plank of wood. Let him bat.

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Who could take over then?

In Eoin Morgan, England have both an attacking batsman and an inventive Captain.

Dropped from the Test side because he was unable to translate his ODI and T20 performances into the Test arena; he has come back much more strongly in First Class cricket.

Now at 27 years old, he was told to go back to County cricket and get some form. He did it. Morgan prioritised; skipping the IPL for Middlesex; scoring two centuries in this season already, including an enormous 191. As a captain, he struck a century against his former side, Ireland; in addition to handling a broken and shattered team down in Australia.

He may not be as technically sound as Ian Bell, or as gritty as a Alastair Cook, but his clear determination to place himself back in contention is admirable. His unorthodox technique makes him an appealing offer of variety for a stagnating England team too, although his main uphill task is to get back into the team.

Currently, the top order is jam packed with new talent, and plenty more is awaiting; such as that of James Vince, James Taylor and many others. Morgan’s runs are going to have to be thick and fast, and particularly in limited overs cricket, he needs to assert himself for England as the flair player.

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Other candidates could be Ian Bell, who is the natural successor to a deposed Alastair Cook as one of the few remaining senior batsmen. He has captained England under 19s, and Warwickshire before, and does lead from the front in the middle. He was England’s player of the year in 2013, and has now matured into one of the most aesthetically pleasing batsmen in the world.

One final option could be to give it to either Stuart Broad, Matt Prior or Joe Root. Matt Prior used to be a vice captain, but after his form drastically fell away, and he was temporarily dropped. He is a risk as he does not have an assurance of long term selection.

Stuart Broad unsuccessfully captained the T20 side, losing embarrassingly to Holland recently, and not showing anything particularly outstanding as a captain. He has no Test experience captaining, and has suffered numerous injuries lately also.

Joe Root could be a Graeme Smith type selection; young, massive potential, versatile and popular, he could take on the role in a shorter term capacity until a more long term prospect emerges. It may of course be too much responsibility.

What is absolutely clear however is that Cook needs to either improve his tactical awareness as captain, get back into the runs, or quit the captaincy before it’s too late.

Little Progress In Defeat – The Bat

In 2011 England went to the top of the world rankings. I thought at the time England’s success although glorious was slightly deceptive. I don’t want to play down the ability of the players but there are some serious flaws. All the way back In 2011 England beat Sri Lanka 1-0. This victory was achieved through a freak collapse at Cardiff in which Sri Lanka were all out for just over 80. This propelled them to a series victory of 1-0 which of course was due to this freak collapse. It didn’t reflect how they had played or the fact they probably should have drawn that series 0-0.

After this, the much anticipated India tour of England took place. India were without Sehwag, Zaheer and Gambhir for the much of the series. Their much vaunted batting lineup did not perform and their bowlers were utterly toothless. India were not a strong or in form side. India lost 4-0 to England and went on to lose 4-0 again to Australia in Australia. India went from number one to losing 8 straight games. Clearly England did not beat a strong Indian side and did not exactly crush Sri Lanka. Although they were the top they had not beaten the best to go to the top.

Into 2012,  the England side came off the back of this summer beating a declining India and have had an awful time. England  have suffered 6 defeats, Despite this, If i told you that In 2012 there are 4 Englishmen in the top 6 of ‘most runs’ and Stuart Broad topped the most wickets column, you would probably say, “What is the problem?” I hope to pick this apart a little bit and show why it isn’t all as rosey as it looks.

Strauss has runs this year thanks to 2 hundreds against a weak West Indies side. It does not mask the fact Strauss continues to fail to perform against the top quality sides though. Not a single Fifty against South Africa. Not even a forty. His average in 2012 is 33.19.

In 11 matches Cook has 3 fifties and one Hundred. In the light of his prolific last few years, Cook has had a relatively poor year. Against the Proteas Cook scored one Hundred and no fifties.  Limited contributions.

A shocking leave

However, with an India tour looming, it surely isn’t a good time to drop the England opener and captain . It would be a bad time to drop a new captain in and arguably a tough time to start a new batsmen off. England aren’t even sure who to would pick. I suppose Root and Denly are the Heirs to the throne, but it would be hard to just kick Strauss out. The big pressure decision of course is that If Strauss does not go, England will not be playing Pietersen in the foreseeable future.

Just to reiterate the bad form of Cook and Strauss, In 2011 against India India Cook hit a magical 294 but scored just 54 runs in the other three tests and Strauss made it past 50 once and made a 40. This is a  deeply set , long term top order failure.

Trott has not scored a hundred in over 8 test matches now. Over 15 innings. Trott has not had a disaster in 2012 with 1 hundred and 5 fifties has failed to kick on.

Ian Bell on the other hand is having a disaster and England are paying for his failings. In 2012 has not scored a ton. Bell has 6 fifties and an average of 31.25 which is b not good enough. Bell looks good even when out of nick. Perhaps this is a reason why so few people have spoken about it. Bell doesn’t look out of nick so a score doesn’t look far away.

 Pietersen is at the top of most runs for England with two tons and two fifties. Pietersen takes games away and can score runs against literally anyone. However i won’t dwell on the Pietersen fiasco in this blog. We all know why his success is irrelevant for tours in the foreseeable future. Pietersen has been dropped.

Powerful Pietersen left out. How long will it last ?

Against South Africa England were outdone by superior opposition quicks. It was apparent that throughout 2012 England’s batsmen are struggling against simple planed out attacking bowling. Steyn and Philander bowled immaculate lines and lengths and forced batsmen to play time and time again. Especially with the New Ball they forced the game their way. Morkel was expertly was used to remove the left handers with angles. Most telling of all was how they dried up the runs and created pressure simply by having discipline.  It was planned to perfection and implemented well.

A positive could be Tahir being innefective averaging 47 in the series whereas against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, everyone struggled against Ajmal Rehman, Randiv and Herath. Then again this could just be the mediocracy and un-imaginativeness of Tahir.

The main positive with the bat has been Matt Prior. Prior scored consistent runs in the South African series simply by innovating and being natural and aggressive. Prior doesn’t get as much of a chance to bat whilst coming in at 7 so it’s understandable why Prior hasn’t got as many runs. If Prior isn’t even making the One day squad, surely there needs to be a reason ?

England’s most natural and free flowing batsmen. Selfless and aggressive

Bresnan this year has scored 81 runs in 6 tests averaging around 20 with a 30 strike rate. Not good enough for a number 8 picked on all rounder status and supposed Batting credentials. Likewise Broad only has one fifty this year. Swann has not got any fifties this year. They both played with certain freedom and fluency at Lords but that was in a chasing and losing cause. We do not see it often enough.

With the Exception of Cook in the first test and the deposed Pietersen, there were no hundreds from Strauss Trott Bell, Bopara, Taylor, Bairstow and Prior. A serious lack of hundreds. In India we need to turn this around. The pitches are flatter and big totals play big totals. We need bigger runs, more hundreds, Bigger hundreds and bigger partnerships. Amla style !

England need to try and get back to an attitude of hitting bigger scores through top order partnerships and having more patience against good line and length bowling. Too often Strauss and Cook got past 20 and 30 but failed to kick on. Too often Bell and Trott got past 50 and failed to kick on.

This has been the end of my look at England’s batting over the past year. Check part two for bowling and fielding !

Are England starting to crack One Day Cricket?

What we have seen from England in the last six to eight months displays what can only be seen as the final frontier of England’s cricketing ambitions finally being taken by the scruff of the neck and wrestled. That is One day cricket. England are improving and have had in them instilled some kind of method of playing One day cricket that has helped them to win. Big runs and quality bowlers. Not to mention the exceptional standards in fielding.

Last year when England played Sri Lanka with the tri captaincy formula we saw the dawning of a new light. Alistair Cook in one day cricket ? Surely not. Well it’s true. And it has worked a treat. He scored a hundred in the fourth one dayer and it was one of those tons for me that i watched and thought something feels a bit different. I think they key factor to why i thought this is that there was such a great balance of attack and defense. A good balance also between bat and ball in the side. England had depth but class, not depleting either bat or ball by playing a few all rounders which in the past have meant a team of Darren Sammy’s i.e. not good enough with either bat or ball really.

As of the last few months England are now on a five game winning streak. Within this thet have consistently had top order runs. When Alistair Cook brought up his fantastic hundred yesterday; it was the 6th consecutive occasion in which an english opener had scored a ton. Does that tell you something ? Yes. England have found a formular of attack (Pietersen previously but now bell, and defense, Cook and trott.)

Here are the 6 innings

19/6, – England v West Indies – Cook 112 off 120 ( 13 fours, 1 Six, SR 93 )

16/6 ,  England v West Indies – Bell 125 of 117 (12 fours 1 six, SR 107)

21/3- Pakistan v England, Pietersen  130 off 153 (12 fours 2 sixes, SR 84)

18/3 – Pakistan v England   Pietersen 111 off 98  (10 fours 2 6’s 113 SR 113) (also Cook 80 off 90 (9 fours 1 six SR 81) and)

15/2- Pakistan vs England Cook 102 off 121 (10 fours SR 84)

13/2 -Pakistan vs England Cook 137 off 142 (14 fours SR 95)

Captain Cook

I know Kevin Pietersen has now retired and will not be playing ODI cricket but it looks as if Ian Bell is a perfect replacement. His 125 at the rose bowl was a brilliant attacking fluent and stylish innings. It is exactly what England have been looking for at the top of the order. He is a technically brilliant batsmen and gives England a mix of stability and  slightly more attacking option than Cook yet slightly less than Pietersen.

Bell is a stylish and fluent attacking solution to top order problems

I am not claiming that after 6 good innings England have solved a problem they have always had. All i am saying is there is a renewed attitude towards the game. There is a deliberate sense of class and attacking intent. Sometimes aggression at the start. The Batsmen know the plan and there is a confidence in their techniques. Cook who was for a year or so very scratchy has had a phenomenal year or so and has reasserted himself once more as a quality player with his one day form.  Before 2011 the entire outlook was always a bit frantic and disorganized.

Englands top three have been firing and haven’t necessarily given the middle order a good run really. Trott has a few 40’s and Morgan and Bopara have a few fifties but essentially it has been all the top two or three. But England now also have a serious depth. With the openers getting a platform even if they do not get a hundred, the likes of Trott, Morgan, Bopara, Kieswetter, Bairstow Patel or whoever England decide to play will have enough of a springboard to accelerate. There are the likes of James Taylor, Bairstow, Buttler, Compton and Patel all vying for a spot also.

This could be the difference between mediocracy and the best in the world. Think about it. We used to get an England side with one or two fifties and a few 30’s and 25’s that led England to get 250 odd. Now we have some century makers  and some really attacking players that come in down the order. England bat down to 9 and 10 even with Swann, Bresnan and Broad being able to hit a long ball. We have a lot of people that can score up and down the order and people that could come into the side and fill a spot. England just need to decide once and for all who they are going to chose because indecision could create a lack of conviction.

England must carry on though. If they want to be the best they need more and bigger hundreds and to keep up the pressure with the ball

What is a good team though ? Just a strong batting unit ?? NO.

England have not just hit big totals and ground down the opposition but have blasted them away. At the Oval they were playing Broad, Bresnan, Anderson Finn and Swann. They rarely even use the 50 overs allocated because they have so many runs on the board and the bowlers are such high class they can get the opposition out before they have the chance to bat out 50 over. Not forgetting also that England have the likes of Dernbach, Onions, Tremlett, Woakes, Tredwell, Meaker etc waiting in the wings. They have serious depth on and off the pitch and all of them are mid 20’s with only Anderson and Swann over 30.

Hunting in a pack

Whilst the batsmen have been notching up tons, a strange phenomenon has occurred with the bowlers. In those six games above mentioned in which there have been 6 tons by openers, there has not been a single 5 wicket hall. In each occasion the wickets have been spread with bowlers like Bresnan getting 4 wicket halls at the Rose bowl the other day, Dernbach getting 4 in Dubai at the 4th One dayer, Finn four wickets in the second and first one dayers. When each bowler is getting wickets it means there is constant pressure. NO WEAK LINK. England don’t need a Brett Lee or Lasith Malinga as a strike bowler as they constantly take wickets.

Super Bresnan gets 4

Its apparent that England have a string of reliable top order batsmen i.e. Cook, Bell, Trott. They have a solid middle order capable of rebuilding or accelerating with the likes of Morgan, Bopara, Kieswetter, Bairstow, Bresnan etc.. and they have one of the best crops of fast bowlers in the world with the likes of Anderson, Broad, Finn, Dernbach, Bresnan, Onions etc.. and let us not forget that England have a highly ranked spinner also. Graeme Swann is a brilliant bowler to have to get the quality players out like Chris Gayle out. He often helps to build up some serious pressure whilst others feed off the lack of runs and get a share of the wickets.

Yesterday Chris Gayle hit 5 sixes within a period of 11 balls. Hitting Bresnan onto the roof and down the ground twice. It was Swann that eventually got him out for 50 odd. However, of late i think it would be fair to say England don’t lose track of the game as much as they used to. Even if someone like Gayle goes on a rampage, they will just get through it. Shortly after Gayle they were taking wickets but this is done through pressure of the likes of Swann and Broad. Regular wickets from every bowler means no weak links. England had Broad on in the middle overs. What team can have that amount of depth to bring on the 7th best bowler in the world to bowl in the middle overs ? England have never looked so good.

England’s spinner prizes out the stars. Gayle gone!

Whereas England have a brilliant spinner, arguably their one remaining real glaring issue is against spin. The likes of Ajmal, Vettori, Herath and other such quality spinners have always proved hard to play against. England need to learn to play a turning ball a lot better and hopefully having Swann in the side will help them do that. The fact in that if they are getting top order runs agaisnt the new ball the quality spinner in the side can only bowl 10 overs. Play that out.  This may however merely be England’s problems on the sub continent. If they can get over that it could be a lot easier.

England have a brilliant mix of top quality batting, aggressive intent, efficiency in the bowling and a taste for winning. I see this is as the start if a period of dominance and hope that England can build on success in Test and T20 to develop and prosper. The main problem i fear is that England’s middle order is not getting enough practice, and they are so dominated by success in English conditions that they may struggle in places like India or Sri Lanka. What we saw in Dubai and Abu Dabi reassured me a little but not hugely.

We need to try and win in India outright (not in a wc situation.) Losing 6-1 hurt. We need to beat them ozziesss as well.. that also really hurt.

Should be interesting !

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