Not just yet: Alastair Cook backtracks over stepping down as England captain

COMMENTS made in the heat of sporting disappointment should sometimes be taken in that context.

HEIR APPARENT? Yorkshires Joe Root would seem the obvious replacement as Alistair Cook as England captain but some fear the responsibility would not suit his personality. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

Whether Andrew Gale decides to stand down as Yorkshire captain – a possibility he flagged up in the emotional aftermath of his side’s failure to win a hat-trick of County Championships – remains to be seen.

Certainly it would be surprising if Gale fell on his sword – not to mention a big blow to a club presently looking for a new coach, a club who could do with his guiding hand in a period of transition.

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Comments made in the cold light of day, however, should invariably be taken for what they are.

England's cricket captain Alastair Cook Picture: AP/Rafiq Maqbool.

Such was the case when Alastair Cook suggested in an interview with The Cricketer magazine that his time as England Test captain could be coming to an end.

Cook, who was set to lead his country for a record 55th time when the first Test against India started in Rajkot this morning, hinted that this five-match series could be his last in charge.

“Deep down, I don’t know how much longer I am going to carry on,” he said.

“It could be two months, it could be a year.

England's cricket captain Alastair Cook Picture: AP/Rafiq Maqbool.

“I do look forward to the day when, hopefully, I can play a Test match as just a batter, there’s no doubt about that.

“If that happens, I am going to really enjoy standing at first slip and being the bloke who makes suggestions to whoever’s in charge, and not being the bloke who has to make the final decision.”

Once his comments had been picked up and circulated via the worldwide web and social media, resulting in a hailstorm of headlines that he is contemplating his position, Cook predictably backtracked a touch.

On the eve of the Test, he said that his policy was always to take it “every series as it comes”, something that he has been “very open about” with director of cricket Andrew Strauss.

“The headline has been made and it wasn’t my intention,” clarified Cook.

“Like everything about the way I’ve gone about my business for the last two years, it’s been a series-by-series judgement.”

The bottom line, however, is that Cook, 31, clearly has an eye on the future and that much will depend on what happens in the next few weeks.

If England lose heavily in India, which is by no means impossible given that they have just lost a Test in not dissimilar conditions in Bangladesh, it would seem an obvious time to walk away.

On the other hand, if England give a good account of themselves, and with a lengthy rest period to recharge himself between the end of this tour and the start of the Test summer, Cook may well fancy another crack at Australia next winter.

Win, lose or draw Down Under, that series could also be a natural point for him to finally relinquish the reins – presumably to Yorkshire’s very own Joe Root.

The England vice-captain is certainly in the box seat to replace Cook, although there are those who believe that he should not be given the main job – not least his former team-mate Graeme Swann, who does not think that Root’s personality suits leadership.

“I love Joe Root and think he’s world-class,” said Swann, “but I think captaincy would take away the cheeky demeanour which is vital in his make-up.”

Swann feels that England too often fall into the trap of making their best player captain, which is a valid point, and yet viable alternatives are thin on the ground.

Root has risen to every challenge that has come his way so far, and although there is a delightful impishness about him, it should not mask the fact that he is an astute tactician and a fine team player as well as an outstanding individual one.

Like Cook and indeed Andrew Gale at Yorkshire, Root also carries himself well off-the-field and would adapt easily to the ambassadorial demands of authority.

All that is for the future, however, and Cook’s supporters will hope it is a while yet before England are looking for a new Test leader.

Cook went into this series with 135 Test caps and 10,688 runs to his credit, a figure that could yet rise up and beyond the 15,000 mark.

He also went into it with a new opening partner in Haseeb Hameed, the 19-year-old Lancastrian.

For reasons known only to the England hierarchy, Hameed was overlooked for the Bangladesh Tests and Ben Duckett picked to open.

Duckett would seem a better bet down the order, and he has replaced Yorkshire’s Gary Ballance at No 4.

For Cook et al, it promises to be a pivotal few weeks.