The Crowd At Southampton

It’s rare that I feel the need to respond to an article, so well done Ed Smith in advance for penning drivel on a scale of such a magnitude to force me out of what I had previously thought was a permanent slumber at work.

This paragraph is the particularly painful one:

“The crowd took the opposite view to the newspapers that claim to represent England fans. Cook was cheered all the way to the middle at the toss, then greeted by a standing ovation when he returned to the pavilion 48 not out at lunch on the first day. The England coach, Peter Moores, conceded that he had never seen Cook more moved than after that spontaneous act of collective support. Another standing ovation followed when he walked off, having made 95. The atmosphere of the post-match victory ceremony was driven by deep respect for the England captain.”

Ok, my turn. As someone who was there at the Rose Bowl on that First Day, and had paid the “twenty odd quid” to be there, I absolutely hate (HATE) this notion of the crowd there absolutely loving him, “two fingers up to the doubters”, “Cook 4 Life”, etc.

I’ve sat and (preferably) stood at many sporting occasions in my time, from having a season ticket at Plymouth Argyle, to watching England or Bath play rugby, to of course cricket – usually England, but occasionally Hampshire/Somerset depending where I am.

There have been times I have wanted the manager or captain of ‘my’ side to go. Of these, I would split them into two categories: there are times I’ve watched terrible players not worth the shirt let me down week after week because they simply don’t have the ability. Then there is a completely different situation, where a good, talented player is letting you down because the attitude or focus is wrong.

Somehow Cook bridges these two options. He isn’t a good enough captain: He has no natural charisma or leadership, he has managed 200 international games whilst remaining seemingly obliviously aloof from the finer nuances of the game. He has no confidence in himself. His people-management skills are woeful. His stubbornness and attitude.

As a batsman however, he is gifted. Gifted in his own way, sure. He can bat for a long time, and will probably still break records. He is however in a horrible run of form, is it 60+ international innings without a ton?, which has coincided with the mental pressures of captaining a struggling side. I want Cook the batsman back – at least in Tests.

The Rose Bowl was a peculiar occasion. England hadn’t won a Test in 10. Of course the crowd were pleased that England turned it around. Gary Ballance and Ian Bell’s innings were both wonderful knocks, Jos ‘not ready’ Buttler was a breath of fresh air, and then England’s bowlers including Moeen turned up.

Then there was Cook. I don’t want to talk about his 70* in the second innings because it was a situation completely void of anything resembling pressure, and he scored at a rate about half that of most of his colleagues did in that situation. This innings was an irrelevance, and I wasn’t there anyway. So I look at his gritty, non-fluent, fortunate 95 in the first:

It was a knock by an Englishman which set a platform for not only better knocks by more Englishmen (exclude Ballance who was superb in the exact same situation), but ultimately also a big win – a big win to end a shocking streak of draws and (mainly) losses. It was the knock of a man struggling to justify his position in spite of being an England great (he is an England great by the way). He even fell sympathetically close to that elusive, job-saving ton. Yet his job was saved regardless.

The Rose Bowl, and in fact the entire south of England, doesn’t see very many Test matches outside of London. This first day struggle on a flat pitch up, creeping towards the ton, for a batsman that obviously out of nick – it was always going to be applauded. I stood at the end; I appreciated it, so I clapped. This is not a ringing endorsement of his continued place as captain of the team.

I repeat: this is NOT a ringing endorsement of his continued place as captain of the team. Watching Cook the Batsman struggle manfully, is NOT the same as watching Clueless Cook the Captain struggle out of his depth.

At Lords on Day 4, again I was there, it was utterly embarrassing. Humiliating, even. The Indians didn’t take over Lords that day, as was reported. The English crowd just had nothing to applaud, nothing to get behind. It was shocking. I left with 30 minutes to go – I won’t be hurrying to buy a ticket for the Ashes next summer. THAT is an endorsement of his captaincy.


About wrongunatlongon

I'll muse on various subjects, mainly involving willow, leather and grass. My natural instincts is to heap as many compound adjectives as I can to sporting natterings. If you like, then feel free to link :)
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