Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Sport: Roger Alton

Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Sport: Roger Alton

Article excerpt

A jaw-dropping moment on the front page of Her Majesty's Daily Telegraph the other day: 'How to fix England', read the blurb, 'by Kevin Pietersen'. Rather like 'How To Stamp Out Diving, by Arjen Robben'; or 'Take Vanity out of Football, by Cristiano Ronaldo'. Pietersen joins a dressing room full of former international captains -- Shane Warne, Geoffrey Boycott, and Michael Vaughan -- who these days devote their column inches to slagging off Alastair Cook in particular and most of the English Test team in general.

It's worth having a look at the flavour of the Telegraph Four's jottings. 'Cook's captaincy is the worst I have ever seen' (Warne); 'A masterclass in how to throw away a Test win' (Boycott); 'How not to captain a Test team' (Boycs again); 'Let's hope Cook has not opted to be boring again' (Warne); 'A good captain would not have axed his best player' (Warne on KP, of course); 'Anderson and Broad are letting Cook down' (Vaughan); or 'England captaincy eats away at you -- sometimes you need outside help' (Vaughan again. Actually that was a good piece. But you get the picture).

What the Four Musketeers seem to believe is that every captain should be a master tactician, another Mike Brearley. It's an absurd idea: Allan Border was tough and respected and a pretty successful captain for Australia but never gave the impression that he cared very much whether leg slip should be moved a couple of yards. What this carping about Cook misses is that strength of character, constancy, honesty and a commitment to the job and the team can be every bit as good a qualification as when you decide to bring on your change spinner.

Thankfully now Cook has been given a massive pat on the back from Andy Flower in an interview in the Sunday Telegraph . 'It seems to be forgotten that this is a young man who has done some extraordinary things -- for himself and for his country. …

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