An angry and frustrated Alastair Cook has vowed to lead England back from “rock bottom” after their Ashes whitewash.
As he came to terms with the 5-0 scoreline in a series England began two-and-a-half months ago with high hopes of a fourth successive Ashes victory, Cook restated his intention to remain in office and his wish that coach Andy Flower does too.
He knows, of course, there will be a clamour for change in many quarters but, having read reports before start of play here that his employers believe his job is safe, he confirmed his appetite to continue.
Cook has been in charge little more than a year and, up until this winter, had not known defeat in a tenure which started with an historic series victory in India.
“There is anger in me and frustration, because, for whatever reason, we haven’t played very well – and the buck stops with me,” said Cook, who was also involved – under the short-lived captaincy of Andrew Flintoff – when England were whitewashed here two tours ago.
“When you hit rock bottom, the only way is up. It happened in 2006-07 and things turned round with a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication to the cause.”
England’s descent from a teatime 87 for three, in purely notional pursuit of a world-record target of 448, was swift.
“I think today was the culmination of being under the cosh for four-and-a-half games,” added Cook, chastened but still cautiously optimistic for the future. “I was given the vote of confidence from the board – which normally means in football terms you have two weeks, and then you’re on your bike.”
He wants Flower to stay on too. “I hope Andy is with us, I really do,” he said. “His record suggests he is a fantastic coach.”
Flower is understood to retain the backing of a new England and Wales Cricket Board management team.
After his team’s latest defeat, the coach told Sky Sports: “This does feel like the end of an era, of some description. It is a chance for some sort of renewal for the England national cricket team. We certainly weren’t good enough, so there should be change of some description.
“It needs wise people making good decisions at the top to try and get those decisions as right as possible.”
Former England captain Nasser Hussain warned Cook he has some tough questions to answer if he is to continue in the role. Hussain could barely contain his anger after England’s sorry capitulation at the SCG, and questioned Cook’s decision-making and his authority over the team. He told Sky Sports 2: “Over this series, he has been completely and utterly out-captained by Michael Clarke. He hasn’t learnt one iota from first game to last.
“The field settings, the plans – when Brad Haddin comes in, they go to short stuff – England haven’t learnt a single thing. It’s been absolutely abysmal. He’s got to start proving to people that he is willing to learn as an England captain.”
Former Test all-rounder Ian Botham described England’s performance as “spineless” and believes the lower order, in particular, were frightened by the pace of Mitchell Johnson, who took 37 wickets in the series at an average of less than 14 runs. Botham told Sky Sports: “I’m pretty depressed and embarrassed – I use that word, embarrassed, and I mean it.
“I am not allowed to use the words that are flashing through my head. I just think it was spineless.
“It’s the fear factor of Mitchell Johnson. You expect to see the late middle-order and the tail contributing with the bat. It hasn’t happened – they’ve been blown away, they’ve been startled rabbits.”
Johnson dominated the series the way that Botham himself did in 1981, and Paul Collingwood believes his contribution will be remembered in equally reverential terms.
He told BBC Radio Five Live: “Mitchell Johnson was fantastic, the impact he had throughout the series was incredible. We have heard about ‘Botham’s Ashes’ in the past but this could easily be called ‘Johnson’s Ashes’.”