Alastair Cook admitted he had felt in limbo since returning from Australia and is now energised by the prospect of being able to begin forging the next generation of the England team alongside Peter Moores.
Cook was told of Moores’ appointment for his second stint as England coach on Friday afternoon, bringing an end to an uncertain couple of months for him where he has been eager to start planning how to arrest England’s winter decline but was unable to talk to the man in charge because his identity was unknown. He also said that the split coaching set-up, implemented in early 2013, had been “very hard to manage” and that one man in overall charge was the ideal way forward.
There was a sense, too, as Cook spoke at Lord’s following the announcement of Moores’ return five years after being sacked, that he is going to embrace the chance to put his mark on English cricket with more than just runs (although they, too, have been in short supply). It was, perhaps, a partial admission that the team Cook inherited from Andrew Strauss had not accepted the methods that work for one captain-coach combination do not always translate to a new pairing.
Cook, looking refreshed and chipper following a pre-season where he has been able to concentrate on himself for a few weeks (a small benefit of the state of flux English cricket has been in, plus his absence from the T20 side) and after a hundred last week for Essex, opted for a touch of self-depreciation as he summed up his roller-coaster captaincy to date.
“As a captain I seem to have got rid of two coaches and an MD, so not sure what has quite happened,” he said. “It’s been an amazing 18 months. I had Andy as the full-time coach, then Andy Flower and Ashley Giles as coaches and now Peter. Over 18 months that’s quite a lot to deal with.
“We have been in limbo the last couple of months, coming back from Australia, devastated with what happened, and you start to think about how to turn things around. You have a lot of ideas, talk to a lot of people but you can’t actually follow through until the head coach came in. When I found who it was, it was a weight off my shoulders. I can now pick up the phone and talk cricket.”
Giles lost out due to concerns over his lack of experience – seven years as a coach compared to Moores’ 16 – and Cook said he was “gutted” for him, acknowledging that Giles “found his hands were tied” at certain times while sharing the job with Flower, but that the attempt to divide the coaching workload had been worth trying.
“The idea behind it was good, to keep Andy involved. He couldn’t have carried on as he was. We won some good cricket – India and the Ashes – so it did work in that sense but it is very hard to manage that situation because, as Ashley would say, he probably found his hands were tied. It was quite a big change. It was an experiment worth trying, but if you can find a guy with the energy to do all three forms it’s a better way forward.
“Giles is a very good guy and was desperate to become England coach. Unfortunately you have to make tough decisions as the leader of any company and Paul [Downton] has made that tough decision. I don’t think you can say the players let Ashley down. We all got behind him, liked his methods, worked hard and enjoyed working under him. Peter has 16 years of coaching experience and has been successful and Paul thought it would be wrong to ignore that.
“I’ve got on really well with Peter, not only the time where he was England coach but we did quite a lot of work on the Academy together before that. I think he’s a really good coach, a brilliant coach in fact, and a really good person.”
Cook’s captaincy has come in for some strong criticism – not just during the 5-0 Ashes whitewash – and Moores made clear reference to playing a new ‘brand’ of cricket. Cook insisted he will not make any radical personal changes, citing his success in India and last year’s home Ashes as supporting evidence in his favour, but conceded that there is now a chance to start afresh.
“That would be wrong because it’s not who I am,” he said when asked if there will a new Alastair Cook on display. “The crucial thing is making good decisions on the field and off the field, and creating a culture and an image of an England cricket team which I will be proud of.
“We got outplayed totally in Australia so to blame it just on my captaincy would be slightly wrong. But I certainly think I inherited a side from Straussy and Flower, and now it does seem a bit of a clean break with the new head coach. So, to me, it is the start of it.”
Quite what the new style of England will be is not yet clear, with Moores reluctant to talk in much detail on Friday – beyond mentions of pride and passion, which should be prerequisites in international sport – and Cook did not want to elaborate before having a chance to sit down together. An attempt to replicate Australia’s playbook, which so overwhelmed England, appears unlikely (partly because of the lack of 90mph bowlers) although Cook conceded many lessons can be learned from how they transformed their fortunes.
“I think there’s certainly a number of things they did very well as a side, and I think it would be wrong not to look at it and go ‘yeah, they got the whole country behind them’. They did it to their strengths,” he said.
“So there’s no point us playing the way Australia played, because you need those kind of players to do it, and obviously Darren Lehmann and Michael Clarke had to be given a lot of credit for recognising the strengths of their side and playing to their strengths, and we’re going to have to look at our side and play to their strengths. I’m not going to bat like David Warner, no matter how many people want me to, that’s not going to work.”
Since returning from Australia, Cook has become a father with the birth of his daughter, Elsie, and while he used the word “perspective” he insisted there has been no dulling in his desire to embark on what could be a long rebirth for English cricket.
“Being a dad is the best thing you can do, it’s very exciting, it’s all new. You look at her and think of the life she will have in front of her, you just don’t know, so you end up thinking more about her than yourself. But I also have a job to do which is one I’m very proud of and we have an opportunity now to try and start again and rebuild.”