England skipper Alastair Cook insists he will take time to consider his future after conceding that stagnation has crept into the side this year as the harrowing series in India climaxed with another spectacular implosion.
The tourists were hammered by an innings and 75 runs after being dismissed for 207 as India completed a 4-0 series victory. England have lost six of their past eight Test matches, making it their worst calendar year since 1993.
Former England captain Michael Atherton believes a “shell-shocked” Cook will step down, while batsman-turned-pundit Geoffrey Boycott has urged the 31-year-old to fall on his sword and give his predecessor time to acclimatise to the role before next winter’s Ashes.
Sir Ian Botham and Nasser Hussain, fellow former England skippers, backed Cook to continue – but only if he has the hunger and fight to do so following the blows of a damaging subcontinent tour.
Asked if there was a sense of stagnation with England, Cook said: “That’s a fair shout. We have played some good cricket at times and played some pretty average cricket.
“It’s been a frustrating year and to lose that many times with the players we have got is disappointing. I’ve got to go away and do some thinking.
“I need to go home first, enjoy Christmas as much as I can and then come back in January and look to plan with [director of cricket] Andrew Strauss to see what is the right decision for English cricket.”
Cook and fellow opener Keaton Jennings, who made 54, guided England to 103-0 before slipping to 129-4. The beleaguered visitors then wilted at the hands of spinner Ravindra Jadeja, losing their last six wickets for a paltry 15 runs.
“There’s only so much you can take,” said Atherton. “Alastair Cook has soaked up more than most. It may look different in a month’s time when he’s had a rest, but looking at him after the defeat he looked like a man who’d had enough.
“If I was a betting man, I reckon he’ll step down in time. I think he’ll probably feel like he’s done enough. He looked absolutely shell-shocked.”
Boycott added: “If we are to have a new captain, he needs all seven Tests [of the summer] to get his feet under the table. We don’t want Alastair giving it up after three of four Tests.”
Cook is England’s leading Test run-scorer of all time and has captained his country in more matches than any other player.
Botham believes the left-hander has earned the right to continue should he wish to.
“Cook is the only person who knows if he still wants it and is still hungry for it,” he said. “Does he want to go and sit in front of the press after a day’s play like this and try to explain himself? If he does then fine, he should carry on captaining. I feel he has done enough to have the choice.”
Hussain added: “I don’t think he should go, but on the one proviso that he still has that fight and stubbornness in him.”