Michael Vaughan: Bold changes needed to secure England future

England's captain Alastair Cook leaves the field after dismissed at Lord's. Photo / AP
England's captain Alastair Cook leaves the field after dismissed at Lord's. Photo / AP

As the fall-out from yet another test defeat begins, English cricket's first priority must be to look after its own. Like everyone else, I am talking about Alastair Cook. But I am talking about the person rather than the cricketer.

Cook is 29 and has been representing England for eight years without a break. That takes its toll for a player alone, even if you are not having to worry about leading the team as well. But then when you put the captaincy into the mix, and it is clearly something that does not come naturally to him.

I know the England and Wales Cricket Board has invested a lot of time and effort in Cook's captaincy but sometimes you have to accept that something is not working. Stubbornness is a useful character trait when you are an opening batsman. But when it comes to decision-making, it can be damaging.

Cook will not want to resign. He would see that as a capitulation, a big failure of personality.

But there was a revealing signal at yesterday's post-match presentation, when he said that he was going to continue until he felt a "tap on the shoulder".

To me, that was almost like a cry for help. Somewhere deep down, I believe Cook wants the selectors to step in and pull him out of the fire before it gets so hot that we lose him for good. This is a man with the capacity to score 13,000 Test runs.

It is hard to see how he is going to find his form while captaining this struggling England team. His seamers are either inexperienced or underperforming and he has no world-class spinner. Meanwhile, his technique is all over the place and has been for a year. Attacks are dismissing him for fun with the full-pitched delivery.

For me, Cook would be best off taking a six-month break and chilling out with his family. Shane Warne missed a year of cricket in 2003 thanks to the diet-pill controversy and some of his best performances came after that suspension. Geoff Boycott skipped a lot of series during his many years with England and look how many runs he finished up with.

Ideally, Cook would rejoin the fold for the tour of West Indies in April. He could link up with the England Lions tour in February if he wanted to ease himself back in gently.

Resting him now might look like a harsh decision, as if you were shooting down a loyal servant. But in fact it would be a kindness to protect Cook from the strain that comes with representing England day in, day out. I want to see him play another six years of Test cricket.

In the meantime, I would do something radical. English cricket has always looked to bed in new captains through the one-day team; that is how I started out, anyway. But I am sick of seeing us do things by the book.

The most important event for England ahead of next year's Ashes is the World Cup. So how about bringing in Eoin Morgan as captain for the rest of this series? It might sound counter-intuitive, but you could use the next three Tests to suss out Morgan's credentials before deciding whether to hand him the captaincy of the 50-over team in Australia and New Zealand.

The England team is crying out for someone with a different viewpoint and Morgan has a lot of tactical awareness and a strong personality. Clearly, it would be a risk. We do not even know whether Morgan has it in him to be a reliable Test performer. But it might be time to throw the dice in the air.

At the same time, I don't want to see too much rabid criticism of this new England regime. The roots of the current malaise run deep and if you want explanations for this latest defeat, it is worth going back to the start of the year and one of the biggest hospital passes of all time.

Andy Flower, England's previous coach, left his job after the end of the Ashes debacle at the same time as the team were losing Graeme Swann, the best spinner we have produced in generations. Flower was also involved in the sacking of Kevin Pietersen, the most flamboyant and dangerous batsman in the side.

If Flower was going to push Pietersen out, I think he should have been brave enough to do it during his own reign. That way, he would have been on hand to deal with all the inevitable fall-out.

If Flower did not like Pietersen, he had the perfect opportunity to apply the axe after Perth, in the wake of that soft dismissal where Pietersen hit the ball down long-on's throat. It would have been a fair call then to get rid of him.

Instead, Flower left the next regime to pick up the pieces. It was not fair on Cook, nor on the new England coach Peter Moores, the new managing director Paul Downton, or the new assistant coach Paul Farbrace.

With results turning sour, everyone is pointing the finger at Cook and Moores, but I believe that Flower, who is still pulling the strings in his new job as director of elite coaching, should bear a lot of the responsibility for the struggles of this team. He had some fine results in his term, but when he finished, he left England in a real mess.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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