Cook must focus on task at hand

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Defeat against West Indies in a three-Test battle is simply unthinkable for an England captain who is desperate to avoid being distracted by the seismic changes going on all around him.

There has been so much happening, from the demise of Paul Downton, to speculation surrounding the new director of cricket and the ever-present spectre of Kevin Pietersen, that the imminent first Test has barely registered.

Yet Cook knows that he, and coach Peter Moores, can afford no slip-ups in what should be the least taxing assignment of England’s ridiculous schedule of 17 Tests in the next nine months.

In less chaotic times Jimmy Anderson’s 100th Test appearance and his chances of securing the four victims he needs to overtake Sir Ian Botham and become England’s leading Test wicket-taker would dominate the agenda.

Equally, the return of Jonathan Trott, who looks set to open with Cook, 18 months after he left England’s Ashes tour in a state of turmoil is a significant development that has virtually passed under the radar.

Instead all eyes are on the duo whose futures are in the balance with an arch-critic of both, Michael Vaughan, favourite to become supremo even though he has played down his links to the job.

Cook has seemed relaxed in his first week in the Caribbean and looked in good touch while scoring a hundred against St Kitts with the slightly altered stance he has been working on with Graham Gooch.

He made three half centuries in his last four Test innings against India last summer while leading England to three successive victories, yet the disaster of a World Cup that went on without him has heaped pressure back on his side.

That pressure can only have been increased by the somehow inevitable news that Pietersen had smashed a huge century on his return to the domestic game with Surrey yesterday, albeit against the students of Oxford University.

England, both publicly and privately, still insist that nothing has changed regarding Pietersen and there seemed a genuine indifference from Cook when asked about the sacked maverick for the umpteenth time yesterday.

‘I’m pleased he scored runs for Surrey but it is exactly what I said before we came here,’ said Cook. ‘It’s for other people to make any decision regarding him.’

The difference now, of course, is that the two men most responsible for jettisoning Pietersen after the Ashes have gone, Downton having been sacked and former ECB chairman Giles Clarke now marginalised as the new president.

It was Downton who put so much faith in Cook to lead a new England era that the captain still believes is full of promise. ‘It’s sad when anyone gets fired,’ said Cook. ‘It’s not a nice feeling in any walk of life. Paul is a good man and I feel for him but as players and staff we have to concentrate on the next three weeks.’

Equally, Cook did not want to think about the implications of what will happen when the new men at the helm in chairman elect Colin Graves and new chief executive Tom Harrison continue their revolution of the English game.

‘I have absolutely no idea,’ said Cook when asked about the new director of cricket. ‘I’m probably reading less about it than anyone. That’s how it should be. The day before a Test the captain should be worrying about what’s important to him.

‘That’s making sure we’re ready to try to win a series against West Indies.’

A glance at the West Indies net session yesterday was an exercise in trying to put faces to names that are little known in the wider cricket world. This is an inexperienced home team and one that England really should defeat easily.

Yet the pitches will be slow and turgid, making it difficult for either side to take 20 wickets and West Indies can clearly sense that England must be vulnerable.

‘We had a function the other night and it was made quite clear to us that West Indies are here to fight and want to beat us 3-0,’ said Cook.

‘They kept on calling it a war so we know we’re in for a hell of a battle.’

One thing that has become clear under the new regime is that the ECB want to try to involve the many good brains of former captains, with Nasser Hussain due to talk to the team last night and Mike Atherton due to make a presentation to Anderson today ahead of his landmark Test.

For now what comes next for England has to be pushed to one side. For Cook is facing a Test series he has to win. – Daily Mail

Original source: Cook must focus on task at hand

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