England insist they want Alastair Cook to stay on as captain up to and including next winter’s Ashes.
The clamour for change from outside the England camp has become deafening but Paul Farbrace is voicing unequivocal backing, on behalf of all the players and management staff on the tour of India which ended in a crushing 4-0 defeat.
Cook has already headed home to consider his future as captain beyond the record 59 Tests in which he has already led his country, before a meeting in the New Year with England and Wales Cricket Board director Andrew Strauss.
Assistant coach Farbrace admits questions about the leadership are inevitable after such a comprehensive defeat – albeit against the world’s No 1 team, who have been invincible at home for four years.
But he left no room for any doubt that he, coach Trevor Bayliss and Cook’s team-mates want him in charge of what they all still believe – despite the hammering in India – is an improving squad.
Farbrace said: “If he chooses to step down, that would be a shame because we want him to carry on. When you lose a series 4-0, of course people will talk about the leadership. We all know that. We would all, at the end of this series, be having a think about what we can do better, what we have learned from this series, and what we need to do to make this team win.
“But there’s nobody looking round the dressing room thinking ‘ooh, I wonder who’s in charge?’. It’s very clear who’s in charge, and that hasn’t changed.”
Farbrace acknowledges it is possible England may have to get used to a change of leader, with vice-captain Joe Root the only feasible alternative – but that is not his preferred option.
“When Straussy and Cookie sit down and have that chat, if it’s decided that Cookie isn’t the man to lead the team going forward, then there is still plenty of time before the first series in the summer,” he added.
“But we know he still has the support of the team, and he’s a very popular bloke and very popular captain.
“We knew this was going to be a tough series. There’s nothing in this series that suggests he’s lost his way as a captain or doesn’t still have the support of the team. He’s captain, everybody knows where they stand with him so there’s absolutely no uncertainty whatsoever within our team. The uncertainty is outside of our team.”
Until the man himself or Strauss tells anyone different, then, it will Cook in charge Down Under.
“We’ve planned, and have been planning, for Cookie to be captain going to the Ashes in Australia next winter,” said Farbrace. “Personally, I hope that continues.
“The most important thing is that Cookie will make the decision based on what’s right for England cricket, not what’s right for Alastair Cook.
“Right back to the last time in Australia [in 2013-14], he could quite easily have walked away from it. He didn’t, and one of the things that’s driven him on is he feels his team is an improving one. We all think that as well.”
They are not in denial, though, about the obvious shortcomings demonstrated in India. England briefly raised expectations by dominating the opening draw in Rajkot, but then came four successive defeats.
Farbrace added: “We’ve played some very good cricket in spells – what we haven’t been able to do is string together days and complete Test matches, other than the first Test.“You get what you deserve if you can’t compete and string together high-quality days of Test cricket.”