Alastair Cook and Joe Root head to the nets in Mumbai © AFP
Joe Root says that he hopes that Alastair Cook will continue as England’s captain for “years to come”, in spite of growing speculation that Cook may be tempted to return to the ranks at the end of the current tour of India.
Despite a century and two half-centuries in his last four Tests, Cook has looked oddly short of form and confidence at the crease and has sometimes cut a weary-looking figure on and off the pitch.
Cook intimated in the build-up to the series that he may be wearing of the captaincy, or at least some of the responsibilities – not least engaging with the media – that come with the territory. However, with his 32nd birthday coming up on Christmas Day, there is no question about his enduring worth as England’s senior opener.
Root is certainly not pushing for the job as his replacement. While you would hardly expect him to roar “Make me captain!”, the impression he gives is of a man happily developing his own role without the unnecessary burden of leadership. There will be plenty of time for captaincy in due course.
“I think he is coping all right,” Root said of Cook. “He’s very professional and you don’t really get much from him in that respect. I imagine it must be quite tough being away from a new child and family and everything. You could put a lot of blame on Cooky but actually it is the responsibility of the batters to make those big scores. You can blame whoever you want, but we have to take responsibility for our own game.
“I think he is pretty set on captaining for a few years to come and I hope he does because I think he is a brilliant leader and I’ve really enjoyed playing under him. I’m quite happy with the role I’m playing at the moment and genuinely, honestly I think he is the right man.”
Even if England do lose the last two games in this series – and they have currently lost four of their last six Tests – it seems most unlikely that Cook will be sacked. It remains possible, however, that he may decide he has had enough and opt to continue solely as a batsman.
Either way, he has a long time away from international cricket after the end of this tour – it is about seven months before England play another Test – which may provide time to reflect and recover. His somewhat weary demeanour at present may simply be the perfectly natural reaction to leaving his young family only hours after the birth of a child.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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