- The Ashes
Cook shrugs off Warne dig
Alastair Cook admits there are times he could be a more imaginative leader, following the latest round of Shane Warne antagonism that caught the England captain's attention and even raised his blood pressure a touch. But Cook was content to defend his leadership based on a record of 13 Test matches without a defeat and series wins over India and Australia entering the return Ashes series down under.
Warne has made some sport of baiting Cook for "negative" tactics on the field, in contrast to the more romantic inclinations of Australia's leader Michael Clarke. He kept up his criticisms throughout England's 3-0 series victory during the northern summer and raised them again while promoting the coming battle. Cook conceded his captaincy style was not always the most dynamic, but stated that the results he had achieved were a greater vindication than any favourable opinion.
"It doesn't seem times have changed at all since last summer," Cook said, somewhat wearily. "It's old news, we had pretty good results in the summer as well. It's not surprising, being Australian, trying to get into the England camp, I think everyone can see that. It is what happens when England play Australia. It hasn't changed since the summer and we don't expect it to change over the next couple of months.
"I've always said I'm trying to learn on the job from experience and there will be times where I could be slightly more imaginative and think slightly differently if the situation arises," Cook said. "We've had a pretty good run so far as a Test side. In my first year as a Test captain we've won away in India which wasn't done for a long time, won a series against Australia and I think those are things we can be very proud of as a side.
"I keep saying it, it's all about results. In sport it is pretty black and white. In cricket you can draw but most of the time in sport you win or lose and luckily at the moment with the players we've got we've done quite a lot of winning and that's what it's about, the now, how we are preparing for another big challenge, winning in Australia."
An international cricketer can often be judged by how he responds to public criticism, whether it be a question of how personally he takes it, what he proceeds to do on the pitch or whether or not he holds a grudge towards those who expressed or published it. Cook said it was impossible not to be affected by words as terse as Warne's, but that he was proud of how he had dealt with that element of a career in the public eye thus far, while also continuing to pay attention to the areas of captaincy that Warne cannot glimpse from the commentary box.
"One of the skills you need as an international cricketer compared to being just a county player is having to deal with this situation," Cook said. "There is a lot more interest in what's going on and how you handle yourself is whether you make the grade or not and over a long period of time I think I have handled it pretty well. When someone makes a comment about you it does change your blood pressure slightly. No-one in the world can say it doesn't but I'm pretty confident and pretty skillful at being able to handle it because over the past seven years I have done it pretty well.
"At the end of the day results are the most important things. That's how your judged pretty much as a captain. There's two sides of it, the man management side of it, back in the dressing room, back at the hotel, how you handle certain individuals, and there's what happens on the field as well. That's the very public bit of captaincy."
Cook has regained flexibility in his back following the stiffness that ruled him out of the opening tour match in Perth, and will walk out to toss the coin for the Englishmen against Australia A in Hobart on Wednesday. So prolific against Australia on his last visit in 2010-11, Cook is hoping to improve upon the run of indifferent scores he managed earlier his year in England.
"It's nice coming to a country where you have scored a lot of runs in the past, it doesn't count for anything now though," Cook said. "Any batter knows if you walk around a ground where you have scored runs in the past it gives you a better feeling than not scoring runs. You always have to prove yourself as a batter. There's always someone saying last time he didn't score runs. Situations don't change. The difference is probably that I'm now responsible for the team."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here