Beaten at the bottom, tough at the top

The Men-Looe third team was finally put out of its misery this week, doomed to relegation having conceded defeat for the third time due to shortage of players. The long-term future of the side is uncertain, and it seems it may well dissolve altogether at the end of the season, which would be a great shame. The last couple of years have been a real struggle results-wise, but the opportunity for those of us at the lower end of the ladder to learn by playing regular league cricket is invaluable. No doubt there will be plenty of friendly matches to get stuck into, but when there’s nothing at stake it doesn’t matter quite as much.

My third XI colleagues and I wrote the book on shambolic defeats, but at least our livelihoods don’t depend on success. It’s hard to imagine what Alastair Cook and his troops are going through at the moment; they might be feeling what many of us have felt at some point in our personal or professional lives.

I’m a writer. Last year in my day job I was sort of promoted to a management position which involved much less writing and much more editing other people’s writing. I didn’t enjoy it and I wasn’t very good at it, but it took me the best part of nine months to realise something had to change.

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I don’t have many things in common with Alastair Cook. We are the same age – he is exactly two weeks older – but at the time of writing he has 8,162 more Test match runs than me and a whole lot more talent. We do share one characteristic though – we are both stubborn, determined individuals and if we are given a job to do we like to see it through. It wasn’t easy to admit that I was in over my head in my new role, that I felt uncomfortable and needed to return to what I’m good at. But it was definitely the right thing to do.

The ever-insightful and thoughtful Alex Bowden, over at King Cricket, describes a similar experience of his own. He explores the reasons Cook was chosen for the captaincy, concluding that actually being a good captain may not have been top of the list. “What captainly qualities has he ever actually displayed?” he writes. “Non really, beyond being a bit older than most of the team and having some sort of inclination to do the job.”

Of course, most of what is being written about Cook is speculation and conjecture. Nobody apart from the man himself knows what’s going on inside his head, how much the leadership is affecting his batting or how close he will come to resigning if results do not improve.

Maintaining the status quo is often the simplest and easiest thing to do; it takes bottle and bravery to make a difficult decision, especially when it involves walking away from a challenge. If England lose the third Test in Southampton and Cook fails with the bat again, the pressure on his position will only increase. If he feels he cannot continue in the job, I hope he has the strength and courage to admit it. If the selectors feel he is not the man to turn things around, they should be strong enough to make the decision for him.

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