Skipper Alastair Cook has the full backing of the England team ahead of their five-Test series against India, says Sam Peters, of The Mail on Sunday.
Cook’s captaincy and form - he has not scored a Test hundred for 24 innings – remains under scrutiny after last month’s 1-0 defeat to Sri Lanka.
All-rounder Stuart Broad came out in support of Cook earlier this week and Peters told Cricket Writers on TV that a run-heavy summer would help ease the pressure on England’s captain no end.
“Top-five batsmen tend to captain sides and if you are not scoring runs, then that really causes you difficulties,” said Peters.
“Cook is clearly not a natural leader – I think that is evident for everyone to see – but when he was scoring five hundreds in his first nine Tests as captain, no-one was talking about his captaincy; they were talking about what a fantastic leader from the front he is.
“But he’s gone 24 Test innings now without a hundred and that’s a problem for any opening batsman. When you add onto that all the analysis and criticism that has come his way from all sorts of areas about his overly-defensive captaincy, there is no doubt that the pressure is on him.
“But I would also say, having spoken to Stuart [Broad] at length and a few other members of the side as well and people who are around the team, that there is no division there. They do believe that Cook is the right man to captain at this point in time.
“I think there is a belief that Joe Root will take it on perhaps in a couple of years but at this moment in time, Cook is the right man for the job. That may be due to a dearth of other candidates but that’s just the case.
“There are too many people with too much to lose for Cook not to do well. They’ve left Kevin Pietersen out of the side after everything that happened – they’ve terminated his contract, which has caused all sorts of issues, of course.
“Paul Downton has made a huge call – they’ve pinned their colours to Cook and if he doesn’t succeed there are a lot of people who will have red faces.”
Former England all-rounder Derek Pringle, now with The Daily Telegraph, said this winter’s 5-0 Ashes drubbing had given Cook’s critics plenty of ammunition.
“It was the nature of that 5-0 pounding in Australia that really made people get on Alastair’s case,” he reflected.
“I’ve felt from the outset that Cook was a fairly negative, defensive captain but then I thought that about Strauss as well on the field and he took England to No 1 with that attitude.
“As Sam says, other candidates are not exactly thick on the ground so we have to stick with Cook. He’s probably the best of a limited bunch available for leadership. But I think that runs will solve everything and he’s been a bit light on them.
Vic Marks, who played six Tests for England, urged Cook to prioritise his batting over the captaincy.
“I think it probably is a make or break series but then he would probably say ‘every series is a make-or-break series,” reflected The Observer journalist.
“Cook inspires by his deeds more than anything, a bit like Bob Willis did years ago. He was probably not the most brilliant strategic captain but you looked at him at the end of the day after he’d bowled 23 overs and you couldn’t help but be a bit inspired by him and Cook is someone who will inspire by his deeds rather than Churchill-ian oratory or brilliant strategy, I suspect.
“You can do all sorts with stats. It’s not a ‘killer stat’ but I was thinking that Cook has captained England 23 times, as did dear old Gatt [Mike Gatting]; Gatt won two, Cook won nine!
“I think Cook has just got to be selfish and forget about all of the elements of the captaincy and go off and look after his batting. The key for him is to get some runs and then life will seem simpler.”
See if Cook can do just that when England take on India in the first Test. live on Sky Sports 2 from 10am Wednesday.