Cook aiming for strong finish
Alastair Cook wants to complete his first summer as England’s one-day international captain on a high tomorrow, with a 3-0 NatWest Series victory over India.
Cook knows a second successive series is already in the bag, after a 3-2 mid-summer verdict over Sri Lanka at his first attempt in permanent charge of the team.
India have yet to win a match against England in any format this summer, but have begun to push their hosts closer - never more so than in Sunday’s tie at Lord’s.
Cook’s side nonetheless confirmed their series success there, still 2-0 up with only tomorrow’s last match at Cardiff’s SWALEC Stadium to play.
“It’s been a good start, and I’m very happy with the way the lads have taken to me as captain and bought into the ideas,” he said.
“I’m very happy with winning both series. We know how tough it’s going to be in the next two months or so (in a return series in India), but this side has always responded well to challenges.”
Victory would also take England above World Cup-winners India into fourth in the International Cricket Council rankings - a neat conclusion to a season in which they also usurped the tourists at the top of the Test table.
Yet despite their success this summer, Cook is confident there is plenty more improvement to come from his ODI squad.
“We are a very young side trying to make progress. The exciting thing is I don’t think we’ve played as well as we can,” said the left-handed opener.
“We have been put under pressure in this series, but have still won the games. That is very encouraging.
“The last two games have been very close, and have shown what a talented side India are. We’re going to have to play at the top of our game to try to win, and finish the summer on a high as a one-day team.”
Even so, Cook is proud of England’s continued efficiency - evidence of the aversion to complacency which runs through Flower’s rhetoric.
“I’m pleased with the way we’ve not let them get back into their stride. Andy said this morning it’s amazing how quickly sport can change,” said Cook.
“The practice session today, you wouldn’t have known what had happened in the series - the way we’ve trained over the last two days. The hunger in the side is there. It should be there, but it’s good.”
Cook has admitted his disappointment, meanwhile, at being pipped by Graeme Swann to the Twenty20 captaincy made vacant by Stuart Broad and Eoin Morgan’s injuries.
He had made it clear, following Broad’s injury in Sunday’s tie against India at Lord’s, that he had designs on leading the team in a second format.
“I was disappointed. You are when your name’s in the hat and it doesn’t go your way,” he said, having discovered yesterday he would not be recalled to next week’s squad to take on West Indies in the two-match NatWest International Twenty20 series.
“I’ve still got ambitions to achieve a lot more in all forms of the game, especially one-day and Test cricket. I just want to play as much cricket for England as I can, and missing games is disappointing.
“I understand the decision. But as a batter you want to test yourself in all three elements, and I’d love to get given another chance.”
As for Swann, who yesterday vowed to rein in his comedian reputation while he is leading the side, Cook has yet to notice a dramatic personality change.
However, the Essex man, who collected the Test Cricketer of the Year at the International Cricket Council awards on Monday, wishes the off-spinner well in his new role.
“Apparently he’s stopped tweeting, which is slightly strange,” he said. “I’m obviously very happy for him. He’s a great friend of mine, and it gives him an opportunity to lead the country - that’s a huge honour.”
While a door has opened for Swann’s international career, a significant one is set to close tomorrow when veteran India batsman Rahul Dravid plays his 344th and final ODI - and perhaps his last match of any description in this country.
Cook said of the 38-year-old: “He’s scored 10,000 runs in both forms of the game. He’s managed to adapt his game to every surface. He is an all-time great.”