MOEEN ALI has insisted that Alastair Cook is the right man to lead England into next year’s World Cup after mounting a staunch defence of the under-fire captain ahead of today’s one-day international at Headingley.
Ali said that Cook had the backing of “all the players” and stressed the dressing room was united behind its leader.
The Worcestershire all-rounder added that he had “never met a more mentally strong person” than Cook, who has faced calls from several pundits – including former England captain Michael Vaughan – to relinquish the one-day captaincy to concentrate on leading the Test side.
Ali stopped short of calling Cook the best thing since sliced bread, but the general tenor of his comments was clear: the England players are fully behind him, even if there is a growing band of malcontents outside the bubble.
“Alastair is the captain and he’s got all our backing,” said Ali, as England – 3-0 down in the five-match series – look to secure a consolation victory in the last game at Leeds.
“He’s determined to do well for the team and himself, and we’re hoping he will come off here (at Headingley).
“I’ve never met a more mentally strong person than Alastair Cook, and to go through what he’s going through and still be the same day-in, day-out, I can imagine it being very tough.
“But he is so strong that I know he’ll come good.”
Cook “came good” in the recent Test series as England recovered from 1-0 down to beat India 3-1.
The captain played his part with the bat after answering deafening calls for him to fall on his sword and take a break from the Test match arena.
“He’s coping the same as he did in the Test series,” said Ali, who top-scored with 67 in the last one-day international at Edgbaston.
“He’s been exactly the same in front of the lads and he’s just been ‘Cooky’, trying to get everyone playing well.
“Hopefully, he can do that himself and we can do that as a team for him.
“He’s just trying to get us all sticking together and trying to make us work hard and execute our plans.”
So far, it is India who have executed all the plans during a series in which their one-day cricket has been far superior to that of their opponents.
After the first game in Bristol was washed out, India won by 133 runs in Cardiff, by six wickets at Trent Bridge, and by nine wickets at Edgbaston, prevailing in the latter fixture with 19.3 overs to spare.
“Obviously, you don’t want to keep losing, and every game we hope to perform,” said Ali.
“It’s taking a bit of time, but I’m sure once we get one win they’ll all come like they did in the Test series. There’s still a lot to play for in this one-day series. A lot of the players are still playing for their places, and to win a game for England is always important.”
After today’s match, England have seven ODIs in Sri Lanka and a tri-series against Australia and India ahead of the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next February.
Ali believes they can learn from India’s positive approach to batting, in particular, as they look to address major concerns ahead of that tournament.
“We can learn a lot from India,” he said.
“For me, sitting on the sidelines for the first two games, watching the way the Indians bat, I think we can learn a lot from the way they approach it with no fear and just back themselves.
“Watching someone like Suresh Raina in the first game, they were in trouble and he just came out and played the way he played, took a few risks and it came off.
“I can try to copy it a little bit, and I’d rather get caught on the boundary or stumped trying to do something than try to knock it around all the time.”
Ali, who denied that England’s one-day strategies are staid, was booed by a section of the crowd at Edgbaston, with some Indian supporters singling him out for special treatment in the city of his birth.
The 27-year-old has made no secret of his view that British-born Asians should be supporting England.
“I just block it out and try to play as best as I can,” he said. “It just goes straight over my head to be honest. I think it’s maybe because my background is from Pakistan, but it doesn’t bother me.
“I spoke to a lot of people, and there were a lot of Asians there who were supporting England as well, but obviously the majority were supporting India.”
The England and Wales Cricket Board last night confirmed pace bowler Stuart Broad had undergone surgery on his right knee.
Broad will begin a rehabilitation and recovery programme ahead of the tri-series against Australia and India next year.
The governing body also confirmed that Matt Prior, the Sussex wicketkeeper, has undergone surgery on his left Achilles.
Prior will start a rehabilitation and recovery programme with England and Sussex during the winter.