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Captain Cook sets sail for Antipodes

Posted in NatWest Series

Alastair Cook leads a voyage destined for Australia and New Zealand from tomorrow, just as another famous captain Cook did nearly 250 years ago.

Then, captain James Cook was the first recorded European to land on New Zealand, in 1769, and Australia, a year later.

Now, England’s current Cook has taken over the one-day captaincy from Andrew Strauss and his “long-term goal” is the next World Cup in the Antipodes.

Today speaking at his first press conference since succeeding Strauss, ahead of the NatWest Series against Sri Lanka, Cook played a typically straight bat.

“We do have that in the back of the mind, sometimes for selection, but we’ve got to go out well to win this series,” he said.

Cook’s straight blade has helped him score Test runs by the gallon over the last year, not least 766 in the Ashes, but it also leads many observers to doubt his suitability for an ODI place.

“Everyone’s entitled to their opinion,” the 26-year-old observed today when former England skipper and current journalist Mike Atherton’s criticism of Cook’s selection was mentioned.

The left-hander’s ODI run-scoring is swifter than many realise, coming at 71 runs per hundred balls, and Cook refused to take Atherton’s views to heart, joking “it takes one to know one” when his term "plodder" was repeated.

Cook last led England during their one-day series in Bangladesh 15 months ago while Strauss was rested. Not only did they secure a 3-0 whitewash but he scored a total of 156 runs from 172 balls.

Although Cook has not played a one-day international since, he was seen as Strauss’ natural successor as part of three-man captaincy triumvirate along with Stuart Broad.

“I think over the next 12-18 months we’ll see how that works,” Cook said today.

By the end of that time England’s World Cup countdown will be almost halved and the T20 team will have defended their crown in Sri Lanka.

For now, Cook is excited to be adding to his 26 ODI caps. He will do so in he game Sanath Jayasuriya wins his 455th and final cap.

Along with Sachin Tendulkar – whom Cook is set to face in the second half of the summer – Jayasuriya is the only other current player to have made his international debut in the 1980s.

Cook was four at the time, but tomorrow must stop the swashbuckling opener, who will be 42 on Thursday, adding significantly to his 13,428 runs and 322 wickets.

In light of Jayasuriya’s recall after more than a year out of the international game only to opt to make the first ODI of five his last, Cook said: “It’s slightly surpring, certainly. He almost reinvented the way people play one-day cricket all those years ago.

“I’m not involved in their selection policy but hopefully we don’t send him out well.”

Indeed, Cook will be hoping to sink Jayasuriya without trace.

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