India momentum tough to halt: Cook

Alastair Cook has confirmed that he is still in it for the long haul

A whitewash in Leeds could be costly for Alastair Cook

First published in National Sport © by

The pressure on England's one-day international captain Alastair Cook is unrelenting, with each successive Royal London Series defeat against India.

England were hapless again in their latest trouncing, by nine wickets with a scarcely believable 19.3 overs to spare at Edgbaston, as India wrapped up the series 3-0 with a match still to play.

Calls for Cook's resignation, or sacking, have therefore gone up another notch - with time running out, on the admission of coach Peter Moores, for England to identify and fine-tune their best team for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand early next year.

Cook has made it clear, as he did so often during the Test summer before vindication came with a late surge to a 3-1 victory over India, that he intends to stick to his guns.

If England fail again at Headingley on Friday, though, it may yet be that someone in authority is forced into a rethink before it is too late.

Seven ODIs in Sri Lanka in November and December, then a taxing tri-series Down Under against India again and Australia in January, form England's wall-to-wall 50-over programme leading into the World Cup.

If they start that journey with a 4-0 whitewash on Cook's CV, it will be a daunting prospect indeed. So for captain and team, the stakes will be high in Leeds for their final assignment of the summer.

Cook knows 3-1 is no great shakes either, especially after hammerings rather than mere defeats so far.

He nonetheless still has one last chance to change perceptions, although he concedes halting India's momentum will be a mighty task for the out-of-sorts hosts.

"I think that's the most frustrating thing and probably the hardest thing I've found throughout my captaincy - when you get behind in a series trying to turn it around, especially in the one-dayers when it happens so quickly," he said.

"You know you've got to go out there and play with freedom, but when you keep losing wickets it's very hard to do that."

England have palpably failed three times in a week.

But there was one glimmer of hope in Birmingham, as Moeen Ali, in his first ODI of the summer, raced to a 37-ball 50, from number seven, with a display of neat footwork and bold striking.

It was a perfect example of how to do it and therefore also a demonstration of others' deficiencies.

At any rate, Moeen has surely ensured his services will be retained for Headingley and beyond, having impressed already with his fast-improving off-spin during the Test series.

"He's done himself absolutely no harm at all, especially the way he batted, and I thought he bowled okay as well in tough circumstances," Cook said of Moeen's performance in his home town.

England's conundrum is whether they can deploy Moeen and the reliable James Tredwell in the same match.

"It is quite hard, two off-spinners (in the same side). You'd always like one spinning away from the bat, from a right-hander," added Cook.

"But that's probably where we don't quite know our best side at the moment, because Mo's gone and batted really well and obviously we've seen in Test cricket he bowls really well as well."

The broader, and unyielding, topic is the captain's own effectiveness as a 50-over batsman, whether his sub-80 strike rate is a recipe for consistent, collective failure.

A string of former England players, and other pundits, are convinced they know what is best for the ODI team - and in their opinion, almost to a man, it is not Cook.

Graeme Swann has been foremost, and he was at it again in Birmingham, where the former off-spinner advocated sparing Cook the aggravation of World Cup disappointment so that he can concentrate on his specialist subject of Test cricket.

"We need Alastair Cook as a confident Test captain to win back the Ashes for us," said Swann.

"We are not going to win the World Cup, so why not just get youngsters in, who will play a vibrant game?"

Cook admits England have much to ponder.

"We've got a lot of thinking to do on selection," he aid.

"But the selection is ... at the moment, I think, a little bit irrelevant.

"It is about players performing and that's why it's becoming so hard, because players aren't doing that."

He still believes it is not his and Moores' ODI gameplan that is faulty, but that costly mistakes are being made in its implementation.

"I don't think it does need to change. I just think we need to do it better," he said..

"The first two games we got really good starts in the first 10 overs and the problem is none of us has gone on.

"We didn't get off to a good start (at Edgbaston). So tactics and strategies kind of go out the window when you're 20 for three or when you're 90 for five after a collapse.

"The top order have to score heavy runs at a good rate - it's fairly simple.

England urgently need to prove him right in Leeds.

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