Alastair Cook passed Michael Atherton’s record of leading England in 54 Tests in Rajkot © Associated Press
There are no immediate plans to change the captaincy of England’s Test or limited-overs team, according to Andrew Strauss. Strauss, the managing director of England cricket, has said he has “every faith” that Alastair Cook will continue as Test captain into the English summer and promised no “recriminations” against Eoin Morgan for his decision not to tour Bangladesh.
While Strauss admits to some disappointment that Morgan did not feel able to commit to the Bangladesh tour – Morgan suggested his focus and, as a consequence, his performance might be compromised by the security issues – he defended Morgan’s long-term record and confirmed that he would lead England in the limited-overs series in India after Christmas. Alex Hales also pulled out of the Bangladesh tour.
“I’m disappointed that we didn’t take a full squad out to Bangladesh,” Strauss said. “But if I’m honest we’ve moved on and it is right to move on. That was a tour that could have derailed us and undermined a lot of the good work that has gone on. I’m confident it hasn’t done that and that is a relief.
“We told the players there wouldn’t be any recriminations for pulling out and when I look back on it I am very grateful that the vast majority of the team thought it was the right thing to do. Those that did go probably strengthened their opinions that it was the right thing to do.
“I stand by what I said and there is every reason to expect Eoin Morgan will come back in as captain against India. He’s done a great job with the one-day team over the last 18 months and it has been a phenomenal transformation. He has to take a lot of credit for that and we look forward to him continuing that.”
Whether there are long-term consequences for Morgan remains to be seen. While it is clear England are reluctant to make a change to the captaincy ahead of the Champions Trophy in June – they have been down that path before, not least at the 2015 World Cup – it may be that Morgan’s authority has been eroded to the point where he cannot withstand any sustained loss of form. It’s not just that his relationship with his ECB employers is a little more strained than before, it is that Jos Buttler and Joe Root have emerged as viable candidates as leadership replacements.
It all means Morgan will arrive in India under more pressure to deliver, in terms of runs and results, than for some time.
Cook’s future lies within his own hands. Strauss is clear that he wants him to continue but respects that, after several turbulent years in the job and with a young family to consider, Cook will look no further into the future than the end of each series. As things stand, though, Strauss has received no indication from Cook that his resignation as captain is imminent.
“He’s given me no indication that he is thinking of standing down,” Strauss said. “But one thing we’ve consistently done is find time at the end of series to have a conversation about what direction the team is going in, what challenges there are and for him personally and how much the captaincy is taking out of him. We’ve done that a couple of times and it is guaranteed that we’ll have a similar conversation at the end of this series.
“From what I’ve seen he is in a really good place. I think he is very comfortable leading this team as he has been for a while now, so it probably takes less out of him now than it used to. He’s batting well, which is a big part of it, and he’s still young. It is quite scary how young his is really and I have every faith that he will carry on past this series and into the summer.”
Whether that includes the Ashes remains to be seen. Once the India series is over, Cook will have six months away from the glare of international cricket and, in that time, he will have plenty of time to reflect on his motivations and priorities. There is no indication at all that he is considering retiring as a player: he has said often that he likes the idea of a future as a specialist batsman and without the responsibilities of captaincy.
“It is always dangerous to look too far ahead in this game,” Strauss said. “My gut feeling at the moment is that there is benefit in him carrying on past this series definitely. But a lot of it comes down to where he is at and what his motivation is and how the team is developing. We’re sitting here right now and it looks to be in a good place but who knows where we will be in three Tests time or in seven Tests time.
“Alastair has still got a lot of cricket left in him whether he is captain or not. Every indication he has given me is, he is driven, he’s passionate, he’s motivated, he’s loving this environment and he’s excited about some of the young players coming through and that is not a bad place for him to be.
“Ultimately the decision is about whether Alastair is the right person to take the team forward and if we decide that is not the case then we think about who his replacement is. The first thing we need to ask ourselves is whether it is right to continue and as I’ve said he is in a really good place at the moment.”
Strauss also suggested that Saqlain Mushtaq could be offered a much greater coaching role with England. Saqlain, the former Pakistan offspinner, is currently in the middle of a short-term consultancy role which has garnered effusive praise from the team and his fellow coaches. The ECB has already extended the role, and Saqlain is also thought likely to return to India to work with the limited-overs team in January, with Strauss hinting that they are effectively using this series as an extended trial period.
“Clearly the development of spin bowlers is really important,” Strauss said. “We’ve got a couple of guys here who are quite young and making their way in the game and we’ve tried to provide them with some support along the way.
“We hadn’t worked much with Saqlain before. He did some work in the summer and we wanted to see more of him over the course of this tour.
“The indication is that he’s done a good job. He’s a very good people person and he connects well with the bowlers, so that is great and why we want him to work more with us over the winter. At the end of the winter we will sit down and work out what we want to do with our spin bowling and work out the best way of supporting them.
“Personally I’m not convinced you need a coach there every single game, but I think you need someone there enough that they develop strong relationships with players and be there at important times in series and on tours.
“It is an obvious area we need to have the right support for players in, while also bearing in mind that we don’t want people there for the sake of it. And we also want players to think for themselves and not become too reliant on coaches to do their thinking for them.”
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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