Cook ready to answer critics

Hampshire Chronicle: England captain Alastair Cook took on his critics on the eve of the second Test against Sri Lanka England captain Alastair Cook took on his critics on the eve of the second Test against Sri Lanka

Alastair Cook will lead England out against Sri Lanka on Friday having already taken on some notable off-field opponents.

England face the tourists in a winner-takes-all clash at Headingley just days after drawing the series opener at Lord's.

For Cook it represents not only the chance to seal a morale-boosting series win for returning head coach Peter Moores, but also to craft a riposte to his critics.

The opener has presided over significant successes during his time as captain - notably a series win in India and a home Ashes triumph last summer - but has never fully escaped charges of conservatism and tactical rigidity.

Australia great Shane Warne has been his most persistent critic, deeming Cook's captaincy "boring" and "negative" and frequently using his commentaries to highlight his perceived faults in the field.

On the eve of the second Test, the England skipper took the chance to have his own say.

"Something needs to be done because in three years I've been England captain I have just, in my eyes, been criticised for a hell of a lot of that," he told BBC Radio Five Live's Jonathan Agnew.

"Yes, when we lose games of cricket as a captain you get criticised but I've also won a lot of games of cricket for England, won more one-day games than anyone as England captain, won an Ashes, won in India away and that's what I'm proud of as well.

"So to be criticised for three years, totally, with those results, I find quite hard to take to be honest with you.

"Support and positivity is what this England team needs."

When Agnew asked if he believed it was personal, the Essex batsman added: "Yeah, I think it is."

Asked in a subsequent press conference whether he was tempted to seek out the opinions of the former England captains who currently work for television and radio, or even pick Warne's brain, Cook placed his faith inside the dressing room.

"I think we keep it in house. With cricket tactics there is always a different way of doing it," he said.

"It's trying to get the best result at the end of the day. Everyone will have a different view from it. That's cricket. I'm doing it the way that feels right to me on the pitch and that is the end of it.

"I thought we did a good job last week."

Cook's opposite number Angelo Mathews would be forgiven for taking another draw in Leeds as a good result on foreign turf, but he is only thinking of taking the series.

"If we can win the game, that's what we're looking for, not really a draw," he said.

"We can't really predict anything, we've just got to go out there, play positive cricket and try to win.

"If we have to make those tactical changes we will."

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