Alastair Cook seems to be their favourite punching bag as former England captains continue to slam the embattled skipper. The 'Axe Cook' campaign has grown even more vicious after India beat England at Lord's by 95 runs to register their first overseas Test victory in three years. Comments on Cook's form and future have gotten nastier by the day.
Geoff Boycott, who loves to relate his strong comments with mums and family members, was harsh on Cook when he said on BBC Test Match Special: "Only Alastair Cook, his wife and family want him to remain as captain -- nobody else. He's being stubborn and it's going to take six wild stallions to drag him out of that job."
Boycott remains one Cook's staunchest critics. But former skippers Michael Vaughan and Michael Atherton are not far behind.
"For all the resolve... to carry on regardless, common sense should prevail in the interests of the man and his team," former captain Mike Atherton wrote in the Times. Interestingly during the post-match ceremony, Atherton interviewed Cook after the Lord's defeat. Cook had clearly declined to relinquish his position.
"It gives no pleasure to write it, but the tap on the shoulder for Alastair Cook should come," Atherton added. "The cruellest cut would also be the kindest cut, as it would be in this fine cricketer's best interests, so that he can find a way to score runs and enjoy his cricket again.
"Batting is not coming easily, and he is not a natural leader of men, so both parts of his game require huge reserves of mental energy. It is hard to see that changing any time soon, so the problems will not miraculously disappear," wrote Atherton.
Cook has gone 27 Test innings without a century and presided over England's 5-0 Ashes capitulation in Australia. This was followed by a 1-0 home loss to Sri Lanka ahead of the current five-match series against India. The third Test against India starts in Southampton on Sunday.
Does England have someone to replace Cook? Very much like India, England don't seem to have a worthy replacement. But Atherton has a point of view.
"There is always an alternative - Ian Bell, Joe Root, Stuart Broad, Eoin Morgan are names that would be worthy of close scrutiny - and, more than that, people can surprise you when given extra authority and responsibility," wrote Atherton.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, another former skipper, Michael Vaughan, felt Cook badly needed a break. "I believe Cook wants the selectors to step in and pull him out of the fire, before it gets so hot that we lose him for good. This is a man with the capacity to score 13,000 Test runs," wrote Vaughan.
"For me, Cook would be best off taking a six-month break and chilling out with his family. Shane Warne missed a year of cricket in 2003 thanks to the diet-pill controversy, and some of his best performances came after that suspension. Geoff Boycott skipped a lot of series during his many years with England and look how many runs he finished up with," pointed out Vaughan.
Cook has refused to quit midway through the series. Former Australian skipper Steve Waugh has backed Cook saying that he should not captain to impress former captains. Southampton will be a big test for the beleaguered England captain and his men.
(With agency inputs)