England captain Alastair Cook subjected to 'witch-hunt' - Grayson

Captain Alastair Cook has been unfairly blamed for England's dismal form, says his Essex coach Paul Grayson.

Cook's future as skipper has been questioned after this week's Test series defeat by Sri Lanka and a sixth loss from seven matches.

"I think there is a bit of a witch-hunt towards Alastair Cook at the moment and I don't think it's his fault," Grayson told BBC Essex.

"The English mentality is to always go hard at the nice guys."

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"Cook is a really, really nice boy. He's honest and he's straight but his form is suffering. He needs to start scoring runs because it's a results-orientated business.

"He has to have some imagination with his captaincy, one plan can't fit into every situation."

Cook, 29, became Test captain following Andrew Strauss's retirement in 2012 and secured a first series win in India for 27 years and a home Ashes success.

But this week's 1-0 loss to Sri Lanka in a two-Test series followed the 5-0 whitewash in Australia over the winter.

And his own performances with the bat have also come under scrutiny, with only 601 runs in his past 24 Test innings at an average of 25.

Former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott described that form as a "recipe for resignation", while Cook said criticism from ex-Australia spinner Shane Warne had become personal.

"He'll be aware that he's made a few mistakes, but it's the responsibility of the group, the senior players, to get England out of a tricky hole," said Grayson, who has coached Cook at Chelmsford for the past seven years.

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"I know Cookie has given his heart and soul to Essex and England over the last 10 years. He's a rock solid bloke and he'll come back strong from this."

Cook will not be given the chance to find form with Essex before England start the first match of a five-Test series against India on 9 July.

And Grayson believes a complete break from the game, rather than a concerted spell in the nets, will be beneficial.

"He's had a lot on in the last couple of weeks - everyone has an opinion on Alastair Cook at the moment," he added.

"He's got two weeks before the first Test against India when he can look at his game and areas he wants to work on and get back to the farm and spend time with his family."