ALASTAIR Cook must take a bold step into unknown territory as his England team try to mark a new era by putting distance between themselves and their winter of discontent.
Cook admits his own first foray to Aberdeen and a one-day international assignment against Scotland under his and returning coach Peter Moores’ guidance represents a “banana-skin fixture”.
Weather permitting, anything but a clear-cut victory will give the sceptics early ammunition as judgments begin to be made about a nascent regime with issues to address following England’s 5-0 Ashes drubbing and then a hapless defeat to Holland in the final match of their failed ICC World Twenty20 campaign. Moores was involved in neither – having succeeded Andy Flower in the head coach role and Ashley Giles in charge of England’s limited-overs teams – and Cook, too, was absent for the Dutch debacle.
The opening salvo in the summer schedule, at international cricket’s most northerly venue today, comes in the intermediate, 50-over, format – and the only one in which England managed a series victory in 2013/14.
Cook is aware of the danger from hosts who will lack nothing in motivation, and little in skill either, but is encouraged by what he has seen so far from a familiar squad featuring only one uncapped player.
“It feels like a fresh start, which happens when you have a new coach and some new players,” said the captain. “It does have that vibe, and it’s a good place to be.
“We haven’t been tested under pressure yet but, over the next 24 hours, we will be.”
Cook was a mere substitute fielder when, in Moores’ initial tenure, England’s match against Scotland was rained off in Edinburgh six years ago – and he was not involved at all for a straightforward victory at the same venue in 2010.
Leading a team this time containing a maximum of just two survivors from that success, he knows of course England should win.
“If we play well, we will be very hard to beat,” Cook said.
“But it is a banana-skin fixture and, if a couple of their guys have good days, they can put us under pressure. Of course, it is new territory and things will take time to settle down. But things have gone well so far.”
Cook does not expect any hangover from England’s most recent travails in Bangladesh.
“In that game they didn’t turn up, did they?” he said. “I’m sure the guys who went through that experience won’t want to go through that again. We’ve got to back our ability.”
He acknowledges nonetheless Scotland are able opponents with much to prove.
“They are in a great position; they have nothing to lose and they’ve got some talent. So they’ll come out giving it their all,” Cook added. “We won’t be under-estimating them.”
If England learned a lesson from their hugely disappointing and chastening winter and a messy aftermath which sparked change, it is a renewed recognition they must never take their positions for granted.
And Cook admitted: “You have to remember how lucky we are to wear the shirt and play for our country.”