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View from the Orchard: Cricket writer Peter Orchard on England captain Alistair Cook

By The Citizen  |  Posted: May 04, 2014

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IT WAS a rare treat for Gloucestershire followers to see the England captain back on 'home' territory last week. Alastair Cook is very much an Essex boy now, of course, having played for the Chelmsford club for 11 years and been awarded a benefit year this summer.

But a lesser-known fact is that he was born in Gloucester, his Christmas Day arrival in 1984 coinciding with a visit to the grandparents.

Cook's father Graham and grandfather Clifford both played cricket for Cam, so there are genuine reasons for local pride in his rise to stardom over the last decade.

To say it has been a tough six months for Cook is a bit like suggesting Jose Mourinho might not be given a guard of honour on his next visit to Anfield.

The 29-year-old resembled a lost soul at times as the Ashes were wrenched from his side's grip, while his captaincy was portrayed as dull and rudderless.

He also suffered the most prolonged dip in form of his international career, and skippers at all levels will testify how much tougher the job becomes when the runs or wickets dry up.

Still a rookie in the top job, Cook had to contend with the retirement of his star spinner midway through the series and the melodrama surrounding Kevin Pietersen – the scale of which only became apparent in the weeks and months that followed.

And I have not even mentioned a certain Mitchell Johnson, who transformed himself from the Barmy Army's jester to a steaming juggernaut and reduced a previously vaunted batting line-up to gibbering wrecks.

There were calls for Cook to be relieved of his duties, but thankfully the ECB saw sense and resisted any temptation to press the panic button.

The series Down Under was a debacle, yet England had boarded the plane on the back of a home series triumph against the same opponents and unbeaten in 13 Tests.

In short, Cook had built up enough credit in the bank to survive the brickbats and unquestionably has the ice-cool temperament required to emerge a stronger character.

So when England's Test summer begins on June 12 against Sri Lanka it will be the same square-jawed leader at the helm, but who will be his partner at the top of the order?

In Australia it was Hampshire's Michael Carberry, who was impressive at Bristol last month and will still feel he is the man in possession.

However, many feel he committed international career suicide by publicly griping about his lack of selection for the subsequent One-Day Internationals and his treatment by then coach Ashley Giles.

I have never been one to bear a grudge against anyone speaking their mind, but at 33 he is hardly an investment for the future.

Middlesex's Sam Robson would get my vote after a rip-roaring start to the summer, and a glance at his form over the longer term shows a return of seven centuries since November.

I am also a Joe Root fan, but he has been shunted up and down the order too many times already and needs some stability.

A paltry score of four suggested Cook felt less at home at Nevil Road than he would have liked, but England were right not to cast him into the wilderness.

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