Cook admits England have ‘damaged’ their image play

PERTH – The world has changed and the England cricket team has to realise it, according to former captain Alastair Cook.

Cook, on the verge of becoming the first England player to win 150 Test caps, has warned his team-mates they “can’t afford any more mistakes” as they seek to rebuild their connection with the general public in the aftermath of the incident involving Ben Stokes outside a Bristol bar in September.

But Cook, who echoed descriptions of the incidents involving Jonny Bairstow and Ben Duckett as “trivial”, maintains the reputation of the current side is “very unfair” and does not reflect either their hard work on the pitch or the progress they have made in improving the image of the game over the last few years.

“The world’s obviously changed for the England cricket team in September,” Cook said. “And it’s probably taken us a couple of months to realise that.”

“These last two incidents have proven that. I’ve seen the word trivial used to describe them. But since the Stokesy thing in September things have changed for the England cricket team. It’s sad in one sense because, a bit different to football, we’ve always been able to go under the radar a bit and enjoy playing cricket for England and also enjoy seeing the country outside of that.”

“I don’t think we’re getting painted fairly in the media in terms of our team culture. But the world’s changed after the September incident, so it’s now down to us to adjust to that quickly. We can’t afford any more mistakes, because we understand the stakes, with the ECB and with sponsors, and trying to encourage kids to play cricket.”

“But if you go back to 2013 when we won an Ashes series 3-0, the public weren’t that happy. It was a strange one, as the captain. There was a big disconnect between the players and the public and, over the last three or four years, we’ve made a massive effort to get that connection back. Clearly over the last couple of months, we’ve damaged that. So we have to try and rebuild it.”

Cook, who also spoke about his own future, said the players were doing their utmost to turn around a difficult tour. His words followed Jonny Bairstow’s admission that England must try to win the fans back.

“The one thing I will say about this England side – and it’s even changed since I was captain – is that I’ve never seen a side work this hard,” Cook said. “Whether we win, lose or draw, whether we play well or rubbish, the effort from the guys is unbelievable. There’s a group of men in there, 16 or 17 of them, who are desperate to do well and Trevor is cancelling practice sessions after three-and-a-half, four hours saying ‘you’ve got to stop now, you’re wasting energy, you’ve got to save it for the Test match’. Those last two incidents have proven that there is very little margin for error when you’ve had a beer. But to say that we’ve got a drinking culture in this team is very unfair.”

“We’ve just got to smarten up, and we’ve got to do it quickly, because there’s too much at stake. Not just one bloke’s career, but you always want to leave the side and the cap in a good place, after every tour and every game. People pay a lot of money to come and watch us here in Australia. At home, the support we get is fantastic. So we’ve got to build that trust back up.”

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