Sir Alastair Cook has shone light on England’s thin preparations for the tour of the Windies following his old side’s crushing 381-run defeat in the first Test.
Inspired spells from Kemar Roach and Roston Chase helped skittle England for 77 and 246, while Jason Holder’s magnificent double-century heaped further misery on Joe Root’s men.
Ex-England skipper Cook, who retired from the international game in 2018 as his country’s all-time highest run-scorer in red-ball cricket, questioned whether the two warm-up matches against Cricket West Indies President’s XI were sufficient in preparing the side for a Test series; both of the tour games were drawn two-day affairs and were not given first-class status.
He emphasised the importance of a decent run of pre-series matches, claiming that England were lacking their ‘fighting edge’ in Bridgetown. “Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail. That has become a cliche in sport but overuse does not erode its essential truth. Look at England over four days in Bridgetown,” wrote the 34-year old in The Sunday Times.
“They didn’t have their fighting edge, and that is not surprising when you consider their pre-Test schedule.”
Cook highlighted the usefulness of ‘proper competition’ in reaching a mental state of match readiness before a Test series, suggesting that a four-day first-class bout would have better served the tourists’ preparations. Cook’s comments echo the sentiments of ex-teammate James Anderson, who described the schedule of tour games as ‘not ideal’ prior to the first Test.
“It’s imperative that you undergo proper competition.. England did not get that. However hard they tried in the two warm-up games, those fixtures added up to less of an experience than four-day first class cricket would have offered. At a bare minimum, they should have had a two-day game in which 15 players were used..followed by a four-day match featuring the probable Test XI.
“I know what it’s like at the start of a tour. Physically, you might feel a bit tired by the end of the first week after the fitness training and nets, but mentally you’re relaxed,” added Cook.
Cook backs England to bounce back in the second Test though, having been ‘hardened’ by the humbling defeat in Barbados.
“If they weren’t match hardened before, they will be now,” Cook said. “This side has a history of bouncing back.”
The second Test will begin on January 31 from Antigua, as England seek to draw level in the three-match series.