Sheffield’s Michael Vaughan has added his name to the list of former players questioning whether Alastair Cook should continue as England captain.
After nine winless Tests and 26 innings without a century Cook has become a target, with high-profile ex-England figures such as Geoffrey Boycott and Alec Stewart suggesting the pressures of leadership have become too much for the Essex man to handle.
Vaughan, who led England to a winning Ashes series in 2005, believes the weight of expectation is now affecting Cook’s batting to such an extent that something has to be done about it.
“We have reached the stage with Cook when he cannot be enjoying cricket. You don’t when you are not playing well and the team is struggling,” he wrote in his Telegraph column.
“It is easy for the England and Wales Cricket Board hierarchy to say it is going to stick by him but it has to ask what is best for the team and for Cook. The ECB has a responsibility to Cook the person to do the right thing and if that means taking the captaincy away then so be it.”
For the 39-year-old the situation smacks of deja vu after he also found it hard to both lead England and perform as an opening batsman.
“I went through terrible moments opening the batting and captaining the side. I could not buy a run in my first series against South Africa and really struggled in Sri Lanka. It was killing me going to my room at night hating this job,” he added.
Vaughan found a new lease of life after a frank conversation with then-coach Duncan Fletcher led to him moving down the order.
“He looked me in the eyes over coffee and said what about dropping down the order to give yourself space and time to gather your thoughts and make the transition from captaincy to batting,” Vaughan said.
“That one chat with Duncan saved me as a captain. If I had been stubborn and carried on as before I would not have lasted in the job because my form would not have been good enough to stay in the side.”
Although moving down worked for him, he does not believe that is an option for Cook, who managed only 10 runs against India on Friday. Instead, he thinks the best course of action may be to remove the shackles of captaincy in the hope it frees up Cook to do what he does best: score runs.
“English cricket has to get him back to batting consistently at the top of the order. He needs a bit of honest feedback. The ECB and Alastair cannot be stubborn and just carry on because they fear giving in to his critics. Plenty of great players have had to relinquish the captaincy to carry on being a player,” he said.