England coach Peter Moores still wants Alastair Cook as his World Cup captain – but may yet be persuaded otherwise in the coming days.
There was “100 per cent” support for “unique leader” Cook, according to national selector James Whitaker two months ago, to take his country to Australia and New Zealand in the new year.
Subsequent events in Sri Lanka have been a debacle for the captain, however, culminating on Saturday in his fifth successive one-day international series defeat.
Moores has responded by voicing his personal faith in Cook, but warning there can be no “guarantee” he will retain the consensus when he consults his three fellow selectors in a series review.
That will come after the final match of this tour, in Colombo tomorrow, when Cook will have one more opportunity to put a score on the board and reduce the margin of defeat to 4-3, and before England announce a 16-man party to travel to Australia next month for a tri-series against the hosts and India.
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The squad will be a World Cup one in all but one name – that of an extra bowler – and must be trimmed to 15 on 7 January. Cook is already listed as captain in a provisional 30 and Moores’ mind remains made up. He said: “For me, I think Alastair’s the right man to move us to the World Cup. But… I’ll go into a room with the other selectors, and we’ll talk about it.”
It is a moot point whether the coach is following protocol, or senses one or more of his three colleagues is beginning to have doubts. “A lot’s happened over the last six ODIs – a lot of good has happened,” he said. “You have a panel of selectors to talk about stuff. So why wouldn’t you use that?”
It will be a stark about-turn from Whitaker if he is voicing concerns – leaving Angus Fraser or Mick Newell as the source of disquiet, if indeed there is any.
Moores added: “What James Whitaker said about Alastair being captain in the World Cup – nothing has changed on that.
“At the end of every series I’ve been involved in, we’ve always sat down and looked at everything and asked if we are doing the right things – because nobody has a crystal ball to look into the future. Alastair has said very clearly that he is very keen to carry on, and wants to remain as captain of England.
“He knows nobody has got the guarantee of that. I hear people say someone’s unsackable. That would be a ridiculous comment. We’ve got four selectors, and we always pick what we think is the best team – and that will be no different, moving forward.”
Cook was asked himself, after the 90-run defeat at Pallekele – where he dropped Sri Lanka centurion Kumar Sangakkara on 41 and then made just a single off his own bat – if he expected to be leading the team Down Under. He simply replied: “Yes.”
The captain apart, a developing England team has made evident strides here – albeit in defeat – with Joe Root and Moeen Ali’s runs, and Chris Woakes’ wickets, especially encouraging. Moores said: “There is a bit of frustration that [the captaincy issue dominates] when someone like Joe Root batted really well [on Saturday], got a stellar hundred [two days before], has had an unbelievable year of being in the top ten leading Test run-scorers and also has three one-day hundreds.”
Meanwhile, Sangakkara has been fined 15 per cent of his match fee from Sri Lanka’s win over England on Saturday. The International Cricket Council has announced the penalty as a result of Sangakkara “showing dissent at an umpire’s decision”.
The disagreement came at the start of the 34th over when the veteran batsman disputed umpire Bruce Oxenford’s decision not to sanction a batting power play, with a further exchange two balls later.
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