Alastair Cook has expressed sympathy for Joe Root, his successor as England’s Test captain, over a rotation policy he believes has left the current side “chasing their tail”.
Several key players have been deliberately omitted from the eight Tests that England have played so far this year, meaning Root has repeatedly been denied his strongest XI.
The England and Wales Cricket Board have defended the system as a sensible response to the peculiar pressures of prolonged periods in the bio-secure bubbles needed for the international game to continue amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But with wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler having missed five Tests in a row, partly also as a result of his Indian Premier League commitments, many have questioned the policy’s implementation, if not the motives behind it amid accusations it has been skewed in favour of white-ball cricket.
England went 1-0 up away to India in February after a victory in Chennai – Buttler’s last Test.
But they lost that series 3-1 and this month saw their seven-year run without a home Test series defeat end after New Zealand won a two-match campaign 1-0, with a draw at Lord’s followed by an eight-wicket defeat at Edgbaston.
Injuries to fast bowler Jofra Archer and all-rounder Ben Stokes have been compounded by rest breaks for the likes of Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Chris Woakes, Moeen Ali and Mark Wood.
“You have to say it hasn’t worked for Rooty, and I do genuinely feel sorry for him,” said Cook who was taking part in Yorkshire Tea National Cricket Week alongside the Chance to Shine children’s cricket charity, on Monday.
“When you’re playing for England, or you’re the captain, coach or selector, you get judged on end results most of the time and he hasn’t had his best players available. You can’t buy the experience of Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali – those kind of players make a big difference.”
‘Judged on results’
Opening batsman Cook, who retired from international duty in 2018 as England’s all-time leading Test run-scorer, added: “I’ve never had to captain during a pandemic – I didn’t even know what a pandemic was when I was captain – but you’ve got a Test captain who hasn’t been able to play his best side.
“The decisions don’t seem like they’ve been made correctly. I’ve been on the other side, where you’re trying to make decisions for the right reasons, but you get judged on your results by it, don’t you?
“It was going so well, winning Test series at home, then Sri Lanka away and 1-0 up against India. Then you rest and rotate players, and ever since that moment on it’s been chasing their tail a little bit.”
But multi-format star Buttler in a separate conference call Monday, said: “I don’t think there are any perfect answers.”
Buttler, who, having played for Lancashire in the T20 Blast, will be back on England duty when Eoin Morgan’s limited-overs side begin a three-match Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka in Cardiff, added: “Of course it’s always frustrating to miss games.
“You wish you were available for everything. But in the current climate with all the complications of Covid etc, I do think we have to look after our people.”
Meanwhile, Cook warned against wholesale changes to an under-performing Test-match top order where Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope and Dan Lawrence have all had their positions questioned ahead of an upcoming five-match series at home to India, currently contesting the inaugural World Test Championship final against New Zealand.
Cook, still playing for Essex, was asked if he had seen any obvious replacements on the county circuit, ahead of England’s bid to regain the Ashes in Australia later this year.
“No, not really, not in terms of someone who is totally ready,” he replied. “These players, I would say, are the best players around.”