Alastair Cook: Will he or won't he?
Happy New Year one and all. I hope Santa brought you everything you wished for.
2016 didn't quite finish according to plan. 4-0 in India was a completely fair reflection of the series. With a bit of luck we could have won that opening Test but 4-0 is a fair result. The disappointing thing for me is we won the toss in four of the Test matches; but it was a painful lesson that scores of 400, while good in most countries, in India it's not just enough - you have to score 500/550 minimum if you truly want to exert pressure on the opposition and put yourself into a winning position.
The interesting thing from the tour, is unlike our last true drubbing in the 2013/14 Ashes, we actually come out of this one in a better state that when we started it, in that (more through luck) we are a lot closer to sorting out our batting line-up. Hameed and Jennings have been real finds and with them at 2 and 3 respectively, Root can be moved back down to his rightful position at 4 and suddenly our top four looks solid. If Bairstow can settle at 5 suddenly the line up takes shape and provides room for Buttler to come in at 7 and express himself. With Stokes at 6 that's an exciting top 7 to take on the challenges of 2017. But talent will only get us so far, we have to learn to adapt to the situation, that's what was seriously lacking in India. The excuse of this being a young, developing side can only be valid for so long. We have to deliver.
So 2017 and what an interesting few weeks we have coming up. Any day now I hope it becomes clear whether or not we'll have a new Test captain. I'll be honest - I'm torn. I love Alastair Cook to pieces. I don't listen to Piers Morgan and I'll happily argue all day with anyone why I believe Cook has done a fine job as captain; with two Ashes wins and wins away in India and South Africa being four of the main highlights of his reign. People forget Cook took charge during a time of transition both within the team, but also among the coaching set up and within the corridors of the ECB. He managed the whole KP fiasco with dignity. They are not easy situations to captain in. Yes, people question his tactics at times, but that happens with any captain; it's always easier to captain from the sidelines. Cook has done a fine job. But, in India he looked like he had reached the end of the road. He's a tough decision. If he believes after a six month break of Test cricket he can come back refreshed and lead us to Australia then he should. But, if he commits he has to see it through. There can be no quitting the role during or after the South Africa series if results don't go our way; that's not fair on Joe Root to go straight into the Ashes without any experience. If, there's the slightest doubt in Cook's mind he has to quit now to give Root seven Tests as captain.
Personally, I hope Cookie continues and Root takes over post the Ashes. I'd rather have a Joe Root without distractions. The next few weeks will be interesting.
The ODI team are now in India for what promises to be a cracking series and great preparation for the next six months where ODI cricket takes centre stage. I'll save a Champions Trophy feature for another time.
That said 2017 promises to be cracking year with the Champions Trophy, South Africa at home, the Ashes and two day night Tests - I really hope Santa has listened and a successful year awaits.