English cricket bosses finally called time on the one-day reign of Alastair Cook last night and in doing so gave new captain Eoin Morgan less than two months to prepare for the World Cup.
News of the decision broke late yesterday after a day of discussions between the international selectors.
A desperately disappointing one-day international series in Sri Lanka was seemingly the final straw as Cook’s ill-fated run at the helm came to an end.
In truth the panel had little wriggle room as they sat down to discuss their plans for the tournament, due to start in Australia and New Zealand in February.
Cook’s form with the bat had mirrored that of the team, and the most recent 5-2 thrashing in Sri Lanka had left England reflecting on five consecutive series defeats in the run-up to facing the world’s elite.
Quite frankly, Cook was never the right man for the job.
One of our nation’s greatest Test batsmen, he simply is not good enough as a limited overs player and did not deserve to take a place in the squad, let alone lead it.
The 29-year-old left-hander took over in 2011 but has averaged just 27.52 in his last 20 one-dayers. In a version of the sport where the opening stand can do so much in giving the batting side a potential match-winning impetus, his form was dragging the team down.
This has been a tough year for Cook. Form has been an issue across all forms of the game, but where he was able to halt the slide in some small way at Test level, his limited overs scores have not improved.
After presiding over the abject 5-0 thumping by Australia in the Ashes last winter he then saw his side lose to Sri Lanka on home soil – defeat which brought intense pressure on him to quit his position at the head of the Test side.
In media interviews following the Sri Lanka defeat at Headingley, Cook insisted he would not walk away, but that he would understand if others took the decision out of his hands. A fine 3-1 series victory over India meant that did not happen.
Defeat to Sri Lanka in the one-day form last week brought a similar response from captain Cook.
“Whether the selectors still think I’m the right man, we’ll wait and see,” he said. “If the decision went that way (removed as captain), then I can’t do too much about it. If that happens, I can have no complaints.”
This time, there was no reprieve and it is Morgan who England must now look to in their bid to win a first World Cup.
The 28-year-old has played 107 ODIs for England but is in a similarly poor run of form, averaging only 25.45 in his last 23 matches.
It can only be hoped that he is able to rediscover both personal and team form when England fly Down Under in the new year.
As for Cook, he must now put this sorry saga behind him and rest up in readiness for an Ashes summer. A refreshed, in-form Cook opening up for England come May would be an ideal result for all concerned.