Captain Cook’s recipe for success

Stan Rayan
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Alastair Cook.— FILE PHOTO: K.R. Deepak
Alastair Cook.— FILE PHOTO: K.R. Deepak

Soon after the Test series victory that broke a 28-year hoodoo, England captain Alastair Cook and Ashley Giles, the team’s new ODI coach, met during Christmas time to prepare for their trip to India.

A few days later, Cook spoke about how Giles was a father figure during his early days in the England team when the two played together.

“He was kind of a dad and looked after a lot of the younger players,” said Cook the other day.

Warm welcome

Clearly, the captain was trying his best to make sure that Giles was offered a warm welcome into the team, and while doing so, he also conveyed the message that the side was very happy to have him as the coach.

This is the first time an international team is trying out different head coaches for different formats of cricket, and, clearly, Cook’s recipe helped Giles settle down fast in his new role after Andy Flower, the Team Director-cum-coach for Tests, helped England celebrate a rare Test series victory in India.

Cook and Giles have played their cards well over the last few days and it clearly showed in the team’s victory over world champion India in the first of the five-match Airtel ODI series in Rajkot on Friday.

The world’s top-ranked Englishmen were a confident lot as they landed in Kochi on Saturday evening for Tuesday’s second ODI at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here.

Cook could have an excellent career as a motivational speaker in future.

For, he came out with some high-energy talk to his boys over the last few days.

The Test series victory has inspired him and he passed this energy nicely on to his team.

Just a couple of days ago, Cook offered the Champions Trophy lure to his young players to bring out their best in the one-dayers against India.

England is hosting the Champions Trophy, virtually a mini World Cup, in June and the captain told his boys that berths in the national team for the event were on offer.

“I don’t know how many places are up for grabs but I would say a lot of them are,” he said.

He spiced it up saying England had not won an ICC 50-over event so far and the Champions Trophy was a fine opportunity since England was playing at home.

Sharp contrast

Contrast this with the conditions in the Indian team.

There were calls for Mahendra Singh Dhoni to give up captaincy of limited-over cricket just before this ODI series began.

And there was talk that the captain and team coach Zimbabwean Duncan Fletcher were not talking much after matches.

Well, England has been through fire and hell too.

Just four months ago, the England team faced a huge crisis and its top star, South Africa-born Kevin Pietersen was at the centre of a controversy.

Pietersen had sent provocative text messages regarding England’s then captain Andrew Strauss to South African players after the second Test between the two teams in Headingley.

Pietersen was dropped from the team after that, stripped of his central contract, kept out of the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka — Pietersen had won the best player award in the previous World T20 which England won in 2010 — and his future with the English team was in doubt.

Suddenly, Pietersen had become the divisive figure in the team.

Cook and Giles went out of their way and used the right words to see that Pietersen felt at home after he tendered an apology and was brought back into the side.

Pietersen, with 77, was England’s top star when the team last played India in Kochi in April 2006.

The team will now look to him to produce a few more big ones as it works to win a bilateral ODI series in the country after 27 years.

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