Cook expects to remain captain

Published: Saturday 13th December 2014 by The News Editor

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Kumar Sangakkara’s glorious farewell innings in Kandy did Alastair Cook no favours – but even after successive series defeat number five, the England captain remains committed to the long haul.

While Sangakkara has played his final one-day international on his home ground, and duly marked it with a match-winning century to give Sri Lanka an unassailable 4-2 lead, Cook reiterated he is going nowhere – other than Australia and New Zealand to lead his team at the World Cup this winter.

He had every right to be bitterly disappointed at the Pallekele International Stadium, missing a simple catch at mid-off to reprieve Sangakkara on 41 out of his 112 and then mustering a solitary run in reply off his own bat as England were bowled out in 41.3 overs in pursuit of 292 for seven.

Cook has had countless tough days over the past 12 months, on the way to Ashes whitewash and then in defiance of his critics last summer.

But this setback was right up there, especially after the encouragement of England’s victory at the same venue on Thursday.

Asked if he expects to be captain when England travel down under next month, first of all for a tri-series against Australia and India, he said: “Yes.”

He did not try, though, to deflect the impact of a 90-run defeat which consigns his team to another series setback to begin their high-profile winter.

“It’s tough at the moment – not scoring the runs I’d like is not a great place to be as a captain.

“You want to lead from the front, and when it’s not happening for you it is incredibly frustrating.

“I’m a better player than I’m showing at the moment, and I’ve just got to keep going.”

Cook has not scored an ODI century in two-and-a-half years, and his 87 runs in five matches here have featured three lbws.

He added: “This has clearly been a tough day for us.

“We came in with some high hopes … and days like these don’t make the job any easier.”

He was kicking himself for dropping Sangakkara.

“It’s obviously the turning point of today, because I thought our first 24 overs or so were probably the best we’ve bowled on this tour.

“There’s no hiding place … it was a catch which I would take more times than not.”

As for his dismissal, he rued not for the first time the narrow margins of lbw verdicts.

“I tried to knock it into mid-wicket, and I missed it … umpire’s call, twice.

“On another day, it could change. I’ve just got to keep working really hard.”

For Sangakkara, there were reasons only to smile after such a perfect send-off.

“This is definitely my last one-day series in Sri Lanka,” said the 37-year-old.

“So this is my last game in Kandy, unless we play a Test match (here) – which I don’t think is in the schedule.

“I’m at peace with my decision … it is the right time to go.

“I just wanted to go out with a win, to seal the series before we go to Colombo.”

It could all have been so different, had Cook held that simple catch.

“I thought ‘that’s out’,” said Sangakkara.

“That’s the way it goes in cricket. I’ve missed a few sitters in my career as well.

“We try our best. Some days we do very well, and others we don’t … we just have to carry on.

“It’s just a case of making sure you keep trusting yourself.”

His friendly and respectful advice to Cook is to do just that.

“He’s a guy who’s scored 25 hundreds in Test cricket, hundreds against all good attacks in on-day cricket.

“It’s never a question of ability … I think he just needs to relax, and get on with the job – because without a doubt, he’s a fantastic player.

“I’m sure Alastair Cook is strong enough mentally to get over this.

“I’ve had these patches; everyone in cricket has. But things always come good, if you work hard and prepare well.

“When it turns, Alastair is a guy who will make that count.”

Empathy and support will not go amiss, from any quarter, for Cook – who is hardly short of detractors as the pressure continues to mount.

He is thankful, in the circumstances, that he can steer clear of many critics.

“It’s probably a good job I’m off a lot of social media, and in the middle of Sri Lanka at the moment.

“The Internet (coverage) is not so great.”

Published: Saturday 13th December 2014 by The News Editor

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