If Alastair Cook feels he needs to ditch the England captaincy then he should

 
Chris Tremlett
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Alastair Cook is set to break Michael Atherton's record of 54 Test appearances as skipper (Source: Getty)

It's critical for England that Alastair Cook is in the side and scoring runs for years to come so if he feels he needs or wants to give up the captaincy to be able to do that then everyone should respect that.

Cook has played a lot of cricket. He’s clocked up more Test appearances for England than any other player and is set to break Michael Atherton’s record of 54 Tests as captain during the first Test against India in Rajkot, which gets underway on Wednesday.

The 31-year-old appeared to suggest that he might be ready relinquish the captaincy reins after the India series, although he has moved to distance himself from such a stance.

He has done really well as skipper since that disastrous Ashes series Down Under during the winter of 2013/14, when England were whitewashed, and he has been in charge of a team that has come a long way. It would be a shame if that was to end.

But having said that, if someone’s heart is not in the role of captain then you can’t expect them to carry the burden. Ultimately, it boils down to how Cook – England’s highest Test run-scorer of all time – is feeling.

For now, Cook is set to be paired with his 10th opening partner in the last four years since the retirement of predecessor Andrew Strauss after confirming yesterday that Lancashire teenager Haseeb Hameed will make his senior England debut in Rajkot.

It’s no surprise to see Hameed replace Gary Ballance and it’s the right decision. Ballance didn’t look up to scratch during the Bangladesh series and Hameed perhaps ought to have played from the start of the tour so he could find his feet a little.

It will be a big challenge for him in India. He will be new to the conditions, to the hectic nature of the crowds and the noise that brings. It will be a huge test of character but if he can do well in India, he can do well anywhere.

In many respects, providing the pitches aren’t absolute turners from ball one – I don’t expect it to turn as much as in Bangladesh from the off – then batting wise, opening in India is probably not a bad place to start.

Seam bowlers aren’t going to give you too much hassle, the difficulty comes later in the game when the ball starts to spin and undoubtedly that will be tough. For the record, Cook and vice-captain Joe Root both made their debuts in India.

Seamer Stuart Broad, meanwhile, is set to make his 100th Test appearance for England in Rajkot. England have done the right thing with Broad over the years, taking him out of the one-day set-up, and that has helped him and his injury record.

He’s a really skilful bowler and as well as there being no reason why he can’t play for another three or four years, there is also potential for him to get even better.

Only James Anderson and Sir Ian Botham have taken more Test wickets than him, and he loves learning new things and trying out different bowling tactics in different conditions. There is competition in the England seam bowling department currently, but if he looks after himself and England look after him, which I know they will, I can’t see anyone knocking him out of the team for some time yet.

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