Where does Alastair Cook rank in the list of English Test captains?

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14 February
10:57
Photo: GETTYIMAGES
14 February
14:57

"It’s been a strange mixture of great wins and miserable lows"

I would say pretty high up but not at the top. He was a good captain, but not a great one. He led England in 59 Tests, which was more than anyone has ever done, but he ended up losing 22 of them, which was also more than anyone.

Set against that is that some of his series wins were all-time greats - particularly in India in 2012/13, that has to go down as one of England’s best ever wins. Then there were the two home Ashes wins in 2013 and 2015, that made him only the third England captain to win more than one Ashes series at home after WG Grace and Mike Brearley, so that’s pretty august company to be in.

The other very good series win he had was in South Africa in 2015/16. So you’ve got four top notch victories there that most captains would have snapped your hand off for just one of them.

On the flipside there was the 5-0 whitewash in Australia, and then the 4-0 defeat in India over the winter which finished him off. So it’s been a strange mixture of great wins and miserable lows.

"He was solid and probably made the most of his abilities, but not quite in the top bracket"

The overall effect is that he’s pretty high up the list but he didn’t have the tactical brilliance of a Brearley or Ray Illingworth, and he didn’t quite have the leadership qualities of Andrew Strauss or, say, Len Hutton. So he was solid and probably made the most of his abilities, but not quite in the top bracket.

He stayed fairly conservative during his reign. In 2015, there were signs that he was listening to other people. He was quite a stubborn guy, generally he liked to do things his way. But in 2015, he did seem to be a bit more open to advice, but I don’t think it ever made him an innovative captain. He tended to go on the defensive, he liked to control the game. If going on the attack wasn’t working he’d very quickly take a slip out and put a man on the sweeper boundary. That probably held England back towards the end.

To beat Australia twice though generally means you’re doing well. Ok, Australia struggled in both those series in English conditions, but the fact is that England won.

"Cook was only ever as good as the bowling attack he had. In India in 2012/13 he had Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, and they got stuffed this time because they didn’t have any spinners"

Generally speaking, Cook was only ever as good as the bowling attack he had. In India in 2012/13 he had Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, and they got stuffed this time because they didn’t have any spinners, so there’s only so much a captain can do if the bowling attack isn’t up to scratch. But I think other captains might have tried something a bit flashier and Cook, when he was left with a mediocre team, didn’t have the X factor to turn that around.

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