Cricketer Alastair Cook was right to step down as England’s Test captain

Don Topley in a tuk-tuk during England's tour of India.
PHOTO: George Franks Photography

Don Topley in a tuk-tuk during England's tour of India. PHOTO: George Franks Photography - Credit: Archant

The smell of cut grass fills the air, the verdant stripes on cricket’s green and pleasant land are evident once more and cricketers around the country are getting their kit out of the loft, writes columnist Don Topley.

Virat Kohli was superb for India against England

Virat Kohli was superb for India against England - Credit: AP

It’s been a long winter for some and none more so than the professional cricketers who have all returned to their counties in readiness for the 2017 season.

England’s Test match and one day cricketers have been extremely busy; I had the honour of following their tours, leading supporters to watch both forms of our international game in my new role as tour ambassador for Smile Group Travel.

After an interesting time in Bangladesh in the Autumn, India were awesome in the winter Tests – especially as England won four of the five Test tosses and wisely batted first.

England, having made over 400 plus runs – twice batting first – could not cope with their outstanding batsmen as India posted more than 600 in reply.

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On days four and five, their Indian spinners showed how inadequate our own spinners were in subcontinent conditions. The most disappointing part of the winter Tests for me were that India’s seamers out-bowled ours.

The punchy and aggressive Virat Kolhi reinforced his world status as did many of India’s other talented players.

Alastair Cook stepped down as England captain - the right move, according to Don

Alastair Cook stepped down as England captain - the right move, according to Don - Credit: PA

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I witnessed Kohli’s majestic double century at Mumbai, Karun Nair’s surprising triple century at Chennai and saw how their lower order (Nos 7,8 and 9) spinning all-rounders made notable half centuries in most games.

I was in the crowd at cyclone-ravaged Chennai for Alastair Cook’s final match as England captain.

Alastair announced to the England hierarchy he wanted to return to the ranks to score runs and I believe his runs are far more important to England than his captaincy.

Five years ago, he inherited the captaincy as England’s finest player at the time, but I am not sure he sits comfortably with the role; scoring runs is his game.

New Test captain, Joe Root, is firmly now in place with everyone’s blessings. We all hope the responsibility does not stifle his runs as England need Root to be at his very best and Cook too, especially next November when England tour down-under for the Winter’s Ashes.

Australia seem to be preparing their squad of players with that in mind. Mitchell Starc has been withdrawn from the IPL and recovering/resting his tired body, while fast and nasty James Pattinson, is now on his way back at Notts CCC, as is the massively talented Pat Cummins. Add the likes of Nathan Coulter-Nile and Josh Hazlewood, their stable of match-winning fast bowlers is becoming impressive and obvious.

In contrast, England have an extremely busy summer ahead with a number of serious bowling contenders just returning from serious injury as they embark on a massive summer’s workload: James Anderson, Mark Wood, David Willey, Reece Topley, Jake Ball and Jade Dernbach.

Our leading Test wicket taker, James Anderson, struggled when he played infrequently in the Indian Test series.

I suspect while he will look dangerous (not sharp) on the seam friendly wickets in the early English summer he no longer possesses the pace required for the Aussies next winter. I hope I am wrong!

Steven Finn must now step up to join Stuart Broad as England’s top two pacemen, otherwise Finn is in danger of being overtaken by younger bowlers.

• Thursday, June 1 signals the start of the ICC World Champions Trophy, a shortened version of the ICC World Cup. The whole event will take just 18 days to complete and many think England will be one the favoured teams for success.

Captain, Eoin Morgan, answered his critics with some excellent and match winning scores in the New Year One Day series in India and, then again, in the 3-0 white-wash which I witnessed in Antigua and Barbados, just two weeks ago.

England’s impressive batsmen are dynamic with flair and possess a workmanlike and skilful set of bowlers to restrict the opposition. Preparation for the ICC event will dominate the early international season with 50 over ODIs against Ireland (2), South Africa (3) before England open the ICC tournament with Bangladesh as the opponents.

The Champions’ Trophy is followed quickly by three t20s against South Africa before the Tests commence with five games against South Africa and three against the weaker West Indies. Finally, five ODIs signal the end of summer in late September with the boys from the Caribbean, before a tough Ashes tour.

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