Keep your jungles, dancing and Twitter – Cook is model captain

John Inverdale
ONE thing about Alastair Cook tells you all you need to know about him. He doesn’t do Twitter. He knows that endless hours frittered away on ground-breaking messages such as “Boys did good job today. Beat India” can be better spent in the nets, or reading a few Mike Brearley captaincy manuals. Or just engaging in conversation with people which make you a more interesting person, and as a consequence better able to control, lead and inspire a team of such disparate individuals as Graeme Swann, Monty Panesar and Kevin Pietersen.

England’s latest, and surely series-winning triumph in India, owes an incalculable amount to their captain, not just in run-scoring, but in terms of leadership. This was a team that, in the last days of the Andrew Strauss empire, had lost its aura of invincibility and was in danger of being torn apart by Pietersen and his social networking.

Lesser mortals would have run away from the KP dilemma. Cook confronted it, and in so doing has brought the most gifted player in the team back into the fold. Top captains embrace mavericks, massage their egos when required, but leave them in no doubt about who’s in charge. Like Martin Johnson, he commands respect because he’s not in thrall to the fripperies of celebrity. A leader in deed by compartmentalising the job. Go to the middle. Score runs. In the field, organise effortlessly and efficiently. In press conferences, be assured and controlled.

When Cook first played for his country, he was asked to make the obligatory debutant’s address to team-mates before a match. Instead of the understandably rather muffled 20 seconds of gratitude normally uttered, he embarked on a 10 minute speech about maximising talent no matter the circumstances. A captain in waiting from the outset.

Two years ago a lack of runs had him staring at the exit door, but how could we have doubted him? He is now the role model to end all role models for the next generation of sports stars. There is plenty of time for dancing and jungles in later life. While you have the chance, just maximise that talent.

You don’t need to waste time telling the world that the boys done great and beat India. We know.