Cook will steer his own course regardless of Warne’s attacks

Alastair Cook
Alastair Cook
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Alastair Cook will remain his own man, irrespective of Shane Warne’s advice about how he should captain England.

Cook entered the final Test at Sydney earlier today hoping to somehow avoid becoming only the third England captain to suffer an Ashes whitewash.

When he headed for Australia in October he was told by the great former Australia leg-spinner that he needed to shake up his tactics if England were to avoid defeat – and Warne’s words are coming true.

Cook admitted back then that it did “change his blood pressure slightly” to constantly hear the warnings, both during last summer’s 3-0 home series victory over Australia and then again on arrival for the rematch.

But more than two months older and wiser, he insists he must do things his own way.

“I have to be the man I have to be,” he said. “I can’t change because Shane Warne says so.”

Unlike Cook, Warne never had the privilege of leading his country in a Test match, although he did so in one-day internationals and was also noted as an instinctive captain of Hampshire.

Cook is prepared to take his and others’ advice into account, but in the end will make up his own mind.

“I can look at what he says, and he might have a point on some of it,” he said. “If you listen to every single person, your mind gets muddled anyway.

“I have to do it the way I think is best for me and this England side.”

Warne’s methods can be crudely characterised as pro-active, and Cook’s approach more ordered.

Others raised eyebrows with some of Cook’s bowling changes as England subsided to defeat at the MCG last week.

But he later gave perfectly plausible explanations, and said on the eve of the final Test: “The nature of captaincy is that there are a number of decisions which could go a different way.

“You have to believe it is the right way, even if someone in the commentary box thinks something else.”

As for Warne, he added: “He has criticised me for a long period of my cricket career, and has also praised me sometimes as well.

“It is nothing new and it will probably continue until I finish.”

Cook knows nonetheless that England’s unexpected run of four consecutive wide-margin defeats leaves him open to criticism.

He does not pretend to be immune from it either.

“When you lose games like we have, it’s a tough place to be as a captain, especially on a big tour with as much media coverage as this,” he said.

“Make no mistake, it hurts for me.”

He knows from personal experience, however, that no-one in his position is ever quite as good or bad as their publicity.

“All the criticism you get when you lose is always exaggerated, and there’s always hyperbole when you win,” he said.

“It’s something I’ve been used to in my career so far, and it will happen to everyone who plays a lot of Test cricket.

“To say I’m 100 per cent [unaffected] would be wrong, but I’m proud of the way I’ve handled myself in this series.”

He and coach Andy Flower have already made it clear they hope to carry on in their jobs, whatever the result at the SCG, and he added: “I do want to continue. I love doing the job.

“I like the challenges it presents, and it’s a real test of who you are as a person – whether you’re up to it or not.”