A kinder assessment might pass on some of the blame to coach Andy Flower. But Captain Cook (Alastair, not James) deserves to go first in front of the firing squad. After all, he's used to the opening salvo!
Some of Cook's decision that have baffled me are:
1) Dropping Bell. Seriously? There are some players who react to Indian bowling like Popeye to spinach. Bell is one of them. He's a veteran of subcontinental conditions and has the temperament to belong to any international side. And yet, Bell has been warming the bench while the English middle-order has floundered.
On the other hand, I easily relate to Cook's faith in Bairstow. In the final ODI in Cardiff a few weeks ago, young Jonny whipped us senseless during a difficult run chase. The future belongs to him. Extrapolating, Cook decided: so does the present. Fine. But can't Bell replace some other bloke? Consider what happened in Wankhede yesterday. Samit Patel, primarily a plump spinner reminiscent of the Bedi era, was given just 1.1 overs to bowl on a slow-turning track. Which means that Cook doesn't have too much faith in his bowling, but finds him good enough to bat at number 6, ahead of Bairstow (as in the 3rd ODI). Yeah, yeah, with a pinch of salt, one might call Patel a pinch-hitter. Does that make him a better batsman than Bell? (I roll my eyes.)
2) Dropping Swann. This was a howler. If I'm the captain and the match is being held in the anti-spin Paradise, I'd still choose Swann over any other spinner currently playing the game. Forget his superior skill and 50-kilo weight advantage. I'd choose him solely for his chutzpah. The entertainment value of his press interviews are second only to Virender Sehwag's. He speaks his mind on and off the field. You might occasionally decode his bowling, but you'll never break his spirit.
3) His field placements. Cook has personified the adage bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted. The first slip is put in place after the new batsman has tentatively edged one to third-man. The legside has two fielders inside the 30-yard circle when the bowler is attempting a middle-and-leg line. An inside-out field comes into play long after the batsmen have settled into a groove. This list of unimaginative field placements is endless.
4) His decision to bat first at Feroz Shah Kotla. Hey, Cookie, here's a tip: check the ground stats before the match. Also, be aware that you're in the northern hemisphere and even sultry autumnal Delhi will produce dew in the evenings. Anyway, you won't forget that massive defeat in a hurry.
I end with my latest FB update that, I feel, summarizes the voyage of Captain Cook:
He didn't allow the Bell to toll. He found the Swann impure. Perhaps he'll banish the Barmy Army next. This Cook sure knows how to spoil the English broth.
To borrow Boycott's words, his captaincy is uotter rooubish.