Ashes 2013/4: England leader Alastair Cook defends captaincy on eve of Sydney Test
England skipper Alastair Cook has defended his captaincy style, insisting he can get tough if he needs to.
Last Updated: 02/01/14 11:47pm
England go into the fifth Ashes Test with Australia in Sydney - which starts on Thursday night UK time - on the brink of being on the wrong end of a 5-0 whitewash.
And their lacklustre displays have seen Cook's captaincy called into question.
But as he tries to galvanise England for one last effort, Cook acknowledges there can be a time and place for a little controlled anger.
At the suggestion he may imitate a Sir Alex Ferguson-style 'hair-dryer' outburst, Cook said: "There's always times when you need to use it and there's always times when you need to be sympathetic too.
"That balance is the answer to being a good leader. I hope I can be firm enough when I need to be."
Asked if he had got the balance right this winter, he said: "The results would suggest that I haven't done - but you would have to ask people who see us work behind the scenes whether I get that balance wrong.
"Yes, I can get cross. But it's not my style to go ranting and raving."
Cook is not notably demonstrative either when he is setting his fields out in the middle, with bowlers appearing to decide the placement.
But Cook said: "The bowler has got to be totally happy with what he's doing, but there are times when the captain has to rule the roost.
"Just because it's not always me moving the field, it doesn't mean it's not me telling the bowlers what to do at the top of their mark.
"When you're winning games of cricket little things like that don't get noticed."
England have confirmed they will make changes to the team, potentially fielding three debutants.
Yorkshire batsman Gary Ballance is widely tipped to be given his first cap, possibly at the expense of Michael Carberry in a new-look order. Either James Tredwell, or - more likely - Scott Borthwick, will replace spinner Monty Panesar. And Warwickshire fast bowler Boyd Rankin could replace Tim Bresnan.
Jonny Bairstow looks set to be retained as wicketkeeper, though Australia captain Michael Clarke believes England made a major error in dropping Matt Prior.
Cook said: "He's entitled to his opinion. We know what a good player Matt has been over 75 Tests. He's had a lean year and he's the first to hold his hand up about that. He's nowhere near the end of his career.
"He's got to go back and prove that he's the best wicketkeeper-batsman in the country if he wants his place back."
Cook found himself forced on the defensive on another front on New Year's Day.
England's decision to skip an early-morning net practice and hold only fielding drills an hour and a half later raised eyebrows.
"We had about an hour and 10 minutes' fielding," said the captain. "We've done a hell of a lot of batting and talking on this tour and we just need to get ourselves ready, as much mentally and how we want to play the game rather than having endless hits two days out."
Cook admitted that he expected criticism, given the state of the series.
"You get flak when you lose games of cricket, whatever you do - and we've lost four in a row," he said.
"You're going to get flak for that."
Watch the fifth Test between England and Australia on Sky Sports 2 on Thursday evening, with coverage from 10.30pm.