Graeme Swann’s criticism of Alastair Cook this week is valid and fair. The ex-England off-spinner upset Cook after saying on Test Match Special that his former team mate should quit as England one-day captain.
In his role as a pundit on Test Match Special he also claimed that Cook “shouldn’t be bothering playing one-day cricket” and that his current one-day strike rate of 77.98 runs per 100 balls ‘does not set the tone’ that will make England competitive in next year’s World Cup in New Zealand and Australia.
Swann, who took 104 wickets in 79 one-day internationals, would like to see England play a more exciting brand brand of one-day cricket rather than the more conservative stuff currently served up.
“In one-day matches I want England to play the exciting cricket they promised six months ago when Peter Moores took over as head coach” he said.
“We’re happy to tootle along in a two-litre diesel in a Formula One race”.
The 35 year-old, who retired from Cricket in December, also claimed that Cook did not merit his place in the starting XI and would like to see Cook, Ian Bell and Gary Ballance replaced by young talents such as Hampshire’s James Vince, Surrey’s Jason Roy and Nottinghamshire’s James Taylor.
His comments have upset his good pal Cook with the Essexman describing him as a “so-called friend” and describing the comments as not being that helpful.
“I don’t think it’s that helpful, especially from a so-called friend”. The 31-year old also went on to say “He’s entitled to his opinion, but it’s not ideal for me, especially when you get through the summer I’ve had”.
But therein lies the rub: Swann is entitled to his opinion. And as a pundit-a decent one in my book, he is paid for saying how he sees it. Friendship doesen’t come in to it.
And if Swann didn’t ever criticise Cook purely because he’s his mate, he would be failing to do his job.
That’s why I think Cook’s attitude is wrong and that he should stop being so precious. His sensitivity to such criticism probably stems from the intense criticism he received for his captaincy during much of the summer.
Following a 5-0 Ashes drubbing down under last winter, England’s misery was compounded by a 1-0 series defeat to Sri Lanka before going one-nil down to India in a 5 Test-series, with the calls for Cook’s head reaching fever pitch.
Pundits like Geoffrey Boycott, Michael Atherton and Michael Vaughan said that Cook should step down o’r be relieved of his duties (interestingly Swann was not one of them) before Cook and co staged a remarkable turnaround to win the final 3 tests, and complete an outstanding 3-1 series win.
One can therefore understand to a degree why Swann’s comments have struck a nerve but it still doesn’t justify his reaction. Criticism is part and parcel of Professional sport and a tough cookie (pardon the pun) like Cook should know this.
Although Cook’s reaction came as suprise to many one person it didn’t suprise was Swann himself. In an interview with the Sun he said ” It’s never nice when you feel your nose is put out of joint. I’m sure I’ll speak to Cooky over the next couple of days but I won’t back down from what I said”.
As well as claiming that the job was a ‘poisoned chalice’ for his chum, Swann also claimed that his comments were not a ‘witch hunt’ against him and that he was still a big fan of Cook’s test captaincy ” This is not a witch-hunt against Cooky and I’m still a huge supporter of his captaincy in Test cricket.
My advice for Mr Cook would be to ‘chill out’, take it on the chin and try to prove Mr Swann wrong-beginning with today’s third ODI against India in Nottinghamshire.