Alastair Cook has had his “wobbles” as England captain, but is ready to go full steam ahead again at the helm for the Ashes winners.
Cook’s three-year tenure to date has culminated in his second series success against Australia, with the chance at The Oval for England to win a fourth Ashes Test in a home summer for the first time.
But he has endured low points too, notably Ashes whitewash defeat two winters ago, a protracted loss of form and his axing as one-day international captain barely a month before England began their woeful World Cup campaign at the start of this year.
Throw in the controversy which raged over the sacking of Kevin Pietersen and England’s refusal to go back on that decision, and it is easy to see why Cook might have entertained occasional doubts.
They surfaced significantly during the West Indies series in April and lingered into this summer, but have been silenced by the uplifting experience of regaining the Ashes.
Cook’s current troubles are restricted to regret that James Anderson will not be fit after all to join the victory lap at The Oval.
The absence of England’s all-time leading wicket-taker, who has failed to recover in time from his side strain, is a mere spot of cloud cover compared to the storm Cook has at times had to get used to confronting. He was therefore comparatively at ease on the eve of the fifth Investec Test as he made it clear his crises of confidence are in the past.
“I had a couple of wobbles,” said Cook. “But I think the way this side have taken to this summer, the way they have gone about their business and the support I have had from them, it feels right for the moment that I carry on. I’ve felt over the last six months or so, as a captain, a lot better about myself.”
He is enthused by a series of impressive individual and team performances en route to 2015 Ashes glory, and optimistic about further strides which can be made.
“It’s been a good week to be an English cricketer – lots of people saying ‘well done’, but I believe this side has more to give. We shouldn’t just rest on this. We need to keep trying to improve, and the guys are right behind that,” he said.
Anderson, in the short term, will not be directly involved. But he will stay with the squad to lift the replica urn, and is very much central to England’s plans too for the tough winter ahead against Pakistan and then South Africa.
Cook confirmed Anderson’s absence from what is likely to be an unchanged line-up following England’s Ashes-clinching innings victory at Trent Bridge.
“Unfortunately Jimmy isn’t going to make it,” he said. “He’s gutted about it.
“He’s made real good progress from where he was at Edgbaston, but it’s a week or so too early. He bowled in the nets yesterday at about 60-70 per cent – that’s not how you go into a game.”
There will, however, be a chance at The Oval for Cook’s opening partner Adam Lyth to put his run of mediocre form behind him.
“He hasn’t scored the runs he would have liked,” said Cook. “But he made a very good hundred against New Zealand [at Headingley in May] – which is where I thought you saw a lot of his talent. It’s tough when your first seven games are against the bowlers he has faced, but he has to clear that out of his mind.”
Cook’s collective, meanwhile, are under orders not to get ahead of themselves. “For all the talk about 4-1, it’s about making sure guys have their feet on the ground and know how much work, patience and skill went into getting those results,” said the captain. “To win 4-1 would be brilliant. But we can’t worry about that record.
“At the end of the week we get to pick up the urn – which will be an amazing experience for the side and one we can’t wait for – but we’ve five days of cricket to concentrate on first.”