Cook calls for cool heads
Alastair Cook has launched a spirited defence of England's batsmen in the wake of their Sabina Park capitulation.
Last Updated: 09/02/09 5:04pm
Alastair Cook has refuted the suggestion that England's misfiring batting line-up has become a "cosy club".
England suffered a humiliating innings defeat in the first Test against West Indies in Jamaica, crashing to 51 all out in their second innings to lose with more than a day to spare.
The same batting unit collapsed in Adelaide during the 2006-07 Ashes tour, and were also dismissed for just 81 against Sri Lanka in Galle last winter.
But the tourists have little time to reflect on last Saturday's chaotic events at Sabina Park as the second game of the four-match series gets under way in Antigua on Friday.
Wide ranging changes to the top six are unlikely given that England have only Owais Shah in reserve as batting cover. Out-of-form number three Ian Bell appears the most likely to make way.
"Everyone realises what playing for England means, and there are a lot of good players coming up," reckoned Cook, who is England's unofficial vice-captain for the Tests in the Caribbean.
"If you don't perform then you know what is going to happen.
"But it is not a time for rushed decisions. There are some very good players, some great players in our side, and things like this have happened before in cricket.
"We cannot act too hastily. The players involved are ultimately responsible, but we have got to take it on the chin and hope we can get a fresh start when we get to Antigua.
"If it happens again, then things have to change. But those are three isolated incidents over three years, so it is not as though it is happening every week."
In the absence of a head coach, following the sacking of Peter Moores, captain Andrew Strauss has urged his players to take personal responsibility for their performances - and that has meant nowhere to hide for the XI bowled out in little more than two hours.
"When things go like that we have to hold our hands up and say 'that wasn't good enough'," said Cook.
"We are not reinventing the wheel - that is always the way it has been.
"When there is a focal point like a head coach then maybe responsibility gets shifted on to other people, but here the players must take full responsibility."
Cook dismissed suggestions that the team became distracted by the Indian Premier League auction midway through the Jamaica Test as "an absolute load of rubbish".
"When you're out there in the middle you're not focused on anything else that's happening," he continued. "But momentum is such a strange thing.
"We were just behind the eight ball after the first innings, with them having a lead of 70-odd, and I have never experienced that happening before.
"It has obviously happened before in other sides, but we hope it won't happen again.
"The one thing we must do is stay together as a side. You have to retain your self-belief as individual players.
"You go through lots of ups and downs. But ultimately if you don't believe in yourself out there you will not score runs or take wickets.
"Believing is the one thing that keeps you going in the tough times."
On a personal level, the past 12 months have been a tough time for Cook - who has failed to build on an extraordinary start to his international career.
Cook's seven Test hundreds before his 23rd birthday was previously bettered by only Sir Donald Bradman and Sachin Tendulkar at the same age. But he has not managed one since the final Test in Sri Lanka in December 2007.
"It is a monkey I would like to get rid of as soon as I can," he admitted.
"I honestly can't think of one little thing - form in terms of every player fluctuates, and it is how you come out the other end - but it is down to me to try to change that.
"There is no better feeling than scoring Test hundreds; if you could do it every day you would."