Alastair Cook has been removed as England’s one-day captain.
According to widespread but as yet unconfirmed reports, with Eoin Morgan appointed to lead England at the World Cup that starts in February.
England’s World Cup captaincy was thrashed out during hours of deliberations at Trent Bridge on Friday as the selectors wrestled with a decision they had done everything to avoid. The ECB is expected to unveil Morgan as the new captain at Lord’s on Saturday less than two months before the start of the tournament.
Cook left Trent Bridge pensive and unshaven as he began to come to terms with a likely future as a Test specialist.
Cook, 29, has struggled for a long time in one-day cricket, scoring only one half-century in his last 22 innings in ODIs. England have also lost five of their last six multi-match series and the 5-2 series defeat has seen the selectors take action.
Pressure has been building for much of the past year for England’s selectors to jettison Cook, as he became a symbol for England’s conservative approach to one-day cricket. But repeatedly tried to bolster his position in the forlorn hope that he would rediscover his form.
That desire was based not only on the wish for continuity, but upon an underlying sense of loyalty to Cook after he had unprotestingly accepted the decision to call time on Kevin Pietersen’s England career after an Ashes whitewash nearly a year ago.
Now England’s selectors have affirmed their right to choose in the face of strong expressions of loyalty towards Cook by the managing director of England cricket, Paul Downton. As recently as Tuesday, Downton, reaffirmed his belief that Cook was England’s “natural leader” and said he would be very surprised if he was not captain at the World Cup.
Downton’s view that the selectors would take “more risks” if they replaced Cook might well have been accepted by those official charged with making the decision, even as they opted for change, but they have concluded that the risk is worth taking and preferable to the sense of inertia that has settled over the England one-day side.
Peter Moores, England’s coach, also expressed personal support for Cook right up to the end, but a majority feeling emerged among the selectorial quartet – the chairman James Whitaker, former England bowler and Middlesex director of cricket Angus Fraser, and Nottinghamshire director of cricket Mick Newell – that Cook’s time had run out.
Under Cook, who was appointed in May 2011, England won 36 and lost 30 of their 69 matches. Cook hiimself has gone 59 innings without an England hundred as pressures have mounted. The recent slump in form from both Cook and the team had threatened to make England’s World Cup challenge a non-event.
Morgan’s form has been equally alarming with only one half-century in his last 19 innings, but that half-century came when he stood in for Cook, who was suspended for a match because he presided over England’s slow over rate, during the seven-match Sri Lanka series. England lost that match in the last over on the way to a 5-2 defeat in the series.
Cook’s sense of duty and strong will meant that he was not about to stand down no matter how consuming his problems in one-day cricket began, but when he indicated at the end of the Sri Lanka series that it was down to the selectors to decide his future there was an underlying sense that he had invited them to act.
England are now left with three captains in three different formats, with Stuart Broad the incumbent in T20 cricket. There is no expectation at present that Cook will lose his Test captaincy and, as Morgan is a long way from the Test side, it is difficult to see how such a bandwagon could gain momentum.
With England involved in a non-stop schedule of international cricket for the next year or more, Cook now has a chance to to restore his energy, regain certainty in his game, and lead England in Test series against New Zealand and Australia next summer.