Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Seeking skippers for sinking ships

by Alastair Pusinelli.

With Steven Gerrard retiring from international football and Alastair Cook’s continuous poor run of form, England's football and cricket sides both need fresh starts.

Both sides have been embarrassed on the biggest stage of all in recent months. The cricket team had the public humiliation in The Ashes last winter, and despite a mini re-vamp are still struggling.

The footballers obviously just had a World Cup to forget in Brazil, coming home with just one point from their three group games.

For the England football team, all the signs suggest Wayne Rooney will be the man to lead the side until at least the next World Cup in Russia in 2018. He has the experience, he’s won countless trophies at Manchester United and scored goals for club and country.

However, there were questions of whether Rooney should have even been in the side for the Brazil World Cup after the emergence of Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling.

Wayne has captained England before on two occasions, against Brazil in 2009 and San Marino in 2012, but he has rarely led out club side Manchester United.

Ex-England captain Bryan Robson feels Rooney, Joe Hart and Gary Cahill are the contenders for the captaincy.

Robson told the BBC: “As a captain I don't think we have a standout candidate. Wayne has captained Manchester United and England. He knows what it’s about.”

He added: “You have to go to the experienced ones who will play each game, especially with the European Championship coming up. Joe Hart, Gary Cahill and Wayne Rooney look like the contenders."

England could look to the Argentina-theorem when looking for a solution to their captaincy dilemma. Lionel Messi continuously delivered in his Barcelona shirt but never transferred his club form onto the International field.

Coach Alejandro Sabella decided to make Messi captain and build the team around him, much like Carlos Bilardo did for Diego Maradona.

Messi has gone from strength-to-strength for La Albiceleste, culminating in the Golden Ball award at the World Cup. England could do the same and make their supposed star-man Rooney captain and hope the leadership will up his performances.

Zoom in to view table

The cricket side have a more difficult decision to make. A new coach has come in and the ‘untrustworthy’ Kevin Pietersen was dropped, so the ECB feel the side needs to rebuild before making any more big decisions.

But time is beginning to run out for skipper Alastair Cook. He oversaw the humiliation Down Under, and there has been little to shout about since.

To make matters worse, Cook’s form with the bat has deserted him, having not hit a Test century in over 14 months. Matt Prior’s withdrawal from the squad adds even more pressure on Cook as he is now the only man in the side to be consistently struggling.

However, if the ECB were to make a decision and drop Cook, who would be the man to take his place? Stuart Broad is perhaps the most likely man to take over as he is the vice-captain and T20 captain, but could he still make the right decisions after bowling twenty overs? Only time will tell.

Other than Broad there are few contenders. Ian Bell is the most experienced man in the side, and the only player remaining from the iconic 2005 Ashes series. But he is someone who is very keen to stay out of the headlines and get on with his business quietly, and the ECB would have already handed him some responsibility if they thought he was captaincy material.

Ex-Captain Michael Vaughan has called for the ECB to ‘roll the dice’ and pick Eoin Morgan as captain. He said in his Telegraph column that Morgan ‘has a nice manner, a lot of tactical awareness and a strong personality.’

Vaughan suggests that Morgan should be handed the captaincy for the rest of the series against India to prove his credentials for the one-day captaincy in Australia and New Zealand.

For me this raises countless issues. Firstly, many fans would question an Irishman leading out the England side.

Secondly, bringing in Morgan would lead to a substantial re-jig in the batting order. Morgan has only batted at six in Test Cricket, which would mean the in-form Joe Root would have to go back up the order and open, where he was criticised last summer.

Thirdly, the ECB have usually used the one-day formats to blood players and captains into the test side. This would be hugely counter-intuitive and show a complete lack of trust in Stuart Broad, the current vice-captain.

And, most importantly, Eoin Morgan had his chance in an England Test shirt, averaging 30 in 16 matches, so to bring him back as captain seems laughable.
Other options would be James Anderson, who has been around the side for a decade. But this would be asking a lot from our star-bowler.

Some say Joe Root as he is one of the few playing with confidence but handing him the captaincy too soon could ruin him.

Or, England could choose to take a massive U-turn and bring back Kevin Pietersen, but this seems far-fetched.

My opinion would be to give Alastair Cook the rest of the series to save his England future. He then needs to carry on this work in county cricket to prove his ability.

Stuart Broad (far left) already has the Cook pose nailed

If Cook fails to deliver, then the winter series in the West Indies is Stuart Broad’s chance to take the captaincy. Hopefully by then, the cloud hanging over English cricket will have disappeared.  

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