England captain Alastair Cook is determined to present a united front with coach Trevor Bayliss as they try to battle back from 2-0 down against India.
Cook, who confirmed Keaton Jennings will make his debut in the fourth Test as his latest opening partner but described Stuart Broad’s return from injury as “probably a 50/50 call”, was required too at his pre-match press conference to confirm he and Bayliss are still on the same page tactically.
It was after the second-Test defeat in Vizag that their statements did not entirely tally, Cook claiming his team had all “bought into” a commitment to all-out defence in pursuit of an unlikely draw while Bayliss was less dogmatic.
After the coach then spoke of his need to “step up” and deliver the message that a more pro-active approach will be necessary in Mumbai, following a second defeat in Mohali, Cook was inevitably asked if he concurred. He answered unequivocally “yes”.
“It wasn’t just Trevor saying it,” said Cook. “I was part of the conversation, and I agree. I think we play well when we have a bit of direction.”
Cook therefore could not have been surprised to read, while he and the majority of the squad were having a mid-series break in Dubai, that back at base camp the coach was publicly delivering a new rallying call on Monday.
“It was clearly a message I knew was coming out,” said the captain. We’d chatted at the end of that Mohali game, and I think it’s a very fair thing.
“As part of the leadership group, alongside Trevor and a couple of coaches, we sat down and discussed how we wanted to play and what had happened from our first game when we scored at three-and-half runs an over [in the draw] at Rajkot.”
Cook wonders, with hindsight, if the attempted blocking tactics in the second Test somehow muddled minds for the next match.
“It was a bit of a hangover, and we did go back into out shells a bit. So after chatting, I think it was a clear message we wanted to play a little bit more aggressively – with more intent.”
Cook will put that into action, if he wins the toss, with Jennings – flown in from Dubai, where the South Africa-born batsman marked his England Lions debut with a century.
It reminds Cook of his own first Test a decade ago in Nagpur where he made a maiden hundred in his second innings, after he too had been summoned from England A duty.
“It’s pretty similar to what happened with me, flying in 48 hours before the game,” he said, adding his first impressions of his fellow left-hander are already favourable.
“I’d never met him properly, so it’s probably been quite daunting for him in one sense. But he seems a really good guy. He’s got a great head on his shoulders, and mentally I think he’s a very strong player.”