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Is England skipper’s goose cooked before Christmas?

CHENNAI: England captain Alastair Cook heads home for Christmas with calls for his resignation ringing in his ears after what turned into an embarrassing sub-continental tour.

Cook flagged his possible departure before the five-Test tour of India and it was a question that became more pointed after England’s capitulation on the final day in Chennai.

England lost six wickets for just 15 runs in a final-session collapse to lose the series 4-0, after they also finished the preceding tour of Bangladesh by folding in the final Test.

Cook’s England threw away 10 wickets in a single session as they slumped to their first Test defeat to the hosts in Dhaka.

Cook admitted it had been a ‘frustrating’ year as he was left ticking off the low points of his captaincy following the defeat in Chennai.

“I think Australia 5-0 in 2013-14 was as low as I could go and Sri Lanka as well at Headingley 2014. We could list a few if you really want,” he said. “I can’t fault the effort in the dressing-room. We’ve stayed together as a team. Naturally when things go badly, things can break up.

“But the guys have been brilliant in committing to the cause. We just haven’t been good enough to put India under pressure for long periods.”

Many now expect Cook to relinquish the captaincy in favour of fellow batsman Joe Root, with England heading into a five-month Test break and an Ashes series in Australia looming at the end of next year.

“End the speculation. He is telling us that the captaincy has tired him out mentally and he has had enough,” said former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott. “If that is the case then he should go, which would give Root seven Test matches in England to get used to the job before taking the team to Australia.”

Cook led England to a 2-1 series win in South Africa early this year against a team then ranked number one in the world, but things went downhill from there.

England were held to a 2-2 draw against Pakistan at home in August and then lost in Dhaka to split the series 1-1 with Bangladesh.

But India proved the nadir as England twice lost by an innings after posting more than 400 in their first innings.

“It’s been a frustrating year and to lose that many times with the players we’ve got is disappointing,” said Cook. “Played some good cricket at times and played some pretty average cricket. We haven’t been very good when we’ve been behind in games.”

England slipped from second to fifth in the latest world rankings led by India, but Cook believes it’s not all ‘doom and gloom’.

“I think everyone can see we are suited to playing in seaming conditions. There’s no point hiding behind that fact. These conditions have tested us to our limits,” said Cook.

England’s humiliating defeats in India painfully exposed an alarming paucity in the side’s slow bowling options and drove home the fact they will continue to struggle in South Asia until they unearth some world class spinners.

Retired off-spinner Graeme Swann had bemoaned England’s indifferent approach towards slow bowling before the five-match series started and his fears were confirmed after the touring side were a heavy drubbing.

The alarm bells would have been ringing when England’s spinners were out-bowled in Bangladesh in October, where the side lost their first ever Test against the hosts in a series regarded by many as an appetiser for the Indian leg of the trip.

That drawn series did little to prepare England’s batsmen for the main course as India’s spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin, the world’s top-ranked Test bowler, and Ravindra Jadeja helped themselves to 54 wickets.

By comparison, England’s main spinners Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali combined for 33 wickets, and the other four slow bowlers used on the tour — Zafar Ansari, Liam Dawson, Gareth Batty and part-timer Joe Root — only claimed seven more between them.

“I think everyone can see we are suited to playing in seaming conditions,” Cook said. “There’s no point hiding behind that fact.

“These conditions have tested us to our limits and I really don’t want to be disrespectful to Mo and Adil but they are not as good as Ashwin and Jadeja yet.

“They haven’t quite got the control and consistency, certainly in the first innings when there’s not much happening.”

On their last trip to India in 2012, Swann and his left-arm spin colleague Monty Panesar took more wickets than the hosts’ two leading spinners of Pragyan Ojha and Ashwin and that translated into a 2-1 series victory for England.

Cook would have hoped his spinners could turn the screw on India after the touring side made first innings totals of 400 and 477 in Mumbai and Chennai, but England barely threatened with the ball and lost both matches by more than an innings.

The captain accepted their current resources were lacking and pleaded for a full-time spin bowling coach for a side who only had former Pakistan off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq with them as a consultant until the third Test in Mohali.

James Anderson, England’s most prolific wicket-taker, had taken 12 wickets in the four Tests in 2012, prompting then India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to dub the seamer as the difference between the sides.

However, the injury-hampered 34-year-old went wicketless in Mohali and Mumbai and was a huge letdown for the England attack.

The tourists were also let down by some bizarre selection choices during the series.

England picked Batty as an extra slow bowler on a Mohali strip known to be one of the country’s least spin-friendly wickets, while the tourists opted for an extra seamer in Mumbai, where Indian spinners bagged 19 out of their 20 wickets.

But England, however, will soon have more opportunities to practise in Indian conditions, when they return for a limited-overs series of three One-day Internationals and as many Twenty20 Internationals in January.

Courtesy : Dawn News

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