India v England: Captain Alastair Cook set for toughest voyage
By Stephan ShemiltBBC Sport
FIRST TEST, INDIA v ENGLAND
Venue: Sardar Patel Stadium, Ahmedabad
Date: 15-19 November 2012
Start: 04:00 GMT
Coverage: Listen to Test Match Special's ball-by-ball coverage on BBC 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 long wave and online; text commentary on the BBC Sport website, tablets and mobiles; highlights and analysis podcast after close of play
With Kevin Pietersen now successfully "reintegrated", it seems that a line can be drawn under the biggest crisis to hit the England team since the last Pietersen controversy.
Strauss was not an automatic choice because his Test career had looked in jeopardy a year earlier, but from the wreckage of the Pietersen-Moores debacle, he presided over one of the most successful periods in England's history.
Of course, Pietersen problems bookended Strauss's time as skipper but, when the Middlesex man ended his international career in September, there was - unlike three years previously - no hint of a question about who would be the successor.
Cook the batsman, who many thought would be unable to replicate his Test form in the shorter game, averages 47.30 as one-day skipper, while Cook the captain has become more aggressive, exploiting the two new balls with four seamers and attacking fields late into an innings.
"Tactically, he's very good and he leads from the front by the runs he scores," said Essex coach Paul Grayson.
"When he came to our pre-season nets at 15 or 16, you could see a lad who conducted himself in a very good manner at a very young age. My first impression was that he was a lot like Michael Vaughan.
"Every challenge that has been put in front of him so far he has risen to."
As captain of the England one-day team, Alastair Cook averages 47.30 with the bat as opposed to 30.52 when in the ranks. In the two Tests he captained against Bangladesh in 2010, Cook scored two hundreds.
All this comes amid Pietersen's return and the fact that Cook will bat in the first Test in Ahmedabad with a new opening partner, the retirement of Strauss leaving a hole at the top of the order that the uncapped Nick Compton looks most likely to fill.
"When I heard about Strauss's retirement, the first thing that crossed my mind was not walking out to open the batting with him," said Cook. "It will be slightly strange.
"It's been a difficult two months for the England side, but for me as captain, the best possible outcome has happened because we have a world-class player [Pietersen] back in the team.
"It's been almost 30 years since we won in India, so that shows the challenge we have ahead, but I'm very confident in this squad that we can do something special."
And if England need inspiration to produce that "something special" in India, they need look no further than the exploits of their captain.
Six years ago, the 21-year-old Cook was summoned from the West Indies to make his Test debut in place of Marcus Trescothick.
He responded with a century.
"He came in as a young boy and straight away you knew he was in line to be an England captain because of his calmness - and so it proved," said Harmison, who was part of the England team in Nagpur.
Pietersen is a special player - Prior
"I'd liken him to South Africa captain Graeme Smith. A lot of people have had a go at his technique, but he knows his game and gets the best out of what he's got."
Cook's elevation to skipper may have been a natural progression, but the problems of winning on the subcontinent, managing Pietersen, bedding in a new opening partner and getting the results that would see England return to the top of the world rankings are just the beginning.
After the India trip, England face perhaps their biggest year of cricket ever, with the Champions Trophy on home soil a tiny hors d'oeuvres for the giant main course of back-to-back Ashes series.
But Harmison, who played under six different England skippers, predicts nothing but success for Cook, particularly as the new captain has Pietersen at his disposal.
"Now KP is back in the side, he will set records for Cook to break because Cook will be captain for as long as he wants to be," concluded the Durham bowler.
"Cook gets on well with everybody but also has authority, and having those attributes together will make him a good leader.
"He'll be one of the best captains in the international game."
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