‘World changed after Stokes’: Cook tells England to smarten up

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Alastair Cook says England have taken too long realise the change in landscape since the Ben Stokes scandal, as another former captain called for a crackdown on the team’s “stupid” behaviour.

On the eve of becoming the first Englishman to play 150 Tests, Cook stridently defended England’s team culture, saying they had been unfairly portrayed in the media in the wake of recent alcohol-related indiscretions.

He also spoke wistfully about the different expectations now placed upon the English side at a time when they are battling to win over a new audience at home.

England have come under intense fire after a third off-field controversy in a matter of months plunged an already unhappy Ashes campaign into further disarray.

Although Jonny Bairstow’s “headbutt” greeting of Cameron Bancroft and Ben Duckett’s dousing of James Anderson with beer are minor incidents in isolation, they have fuelled perceptions of a booze-ridden tour. Bairstow says he feels sorry for coach Trevor Bayliss, who is struggling to control his team.

Those blunders came after Stokes was investigated for his part in a late night fight outside a nightclub in Bristol which forced him out of England’s Ashes squad.

It’s hard to imagine England would have imposed a curfew if not for the Stokes affair, which is looking increasingly like the moment their defence of the urn unravelled.

Cook, who stood down as captain last year, spoke wistfully about how the side’s misbehaviour in was being viewed in a different context because of Stokes’ actions.

“The world’s obviously changed for the England cricket team in September. And it’s probably taken us a couple of months to really realise that,” Cook said.

“These last two incidents have probably proven that. I’ve seen the words written down ‘trivial’, ‘a misdemeanour at best’, ‘very low key’ but since the Stokesy thing in September the times have changed for the English cricket team.

“It’s sad in one sense because, a bit different to football, we’ve always been able to go under the radar a bit and enjoy playing cricket for England and also enjoy seeing the country outside of that.

“At the moment I don’t think we’re getting painted fairly in the media, on our culture. Clearly there’s been – it sounds silly me saying it, but a couple of things in the media that have been brought up.

“But the world’s changed after the September incident, so it’s now down to us to adjust to that quickly.”

English cricket is in a similar position to last decade when it introduced the Big Bash League after realising it no longer captured the hearts and minds of the younger generation.

The England and Wales Cricket Board earlier this year approved of a new eight-team city-based Twenty20 league to start in 2020.

“We can’t afford any more mistakes, because we understand the stakes, with the ECB and with sponsors, trying to make kids play cricket, which is ultimately what we want to do,” Cook said.

“You go back to 2013 when we won an Ashes series 3-0, but the public weren’t that happy. It was a strange one, as the captain of that. There was a big disconnect between the players and the public, and over the last three or four years we’ve made a massive effort to get that connection back.

“I think people have seen that. Clearly over the last couple of months, we’ve damaged that. We have to try and rebuild that a lot, because it’s so important to the players, and we’ve got to understand it quickly.”

While Cook described this England touring party as the hardest working squad he had been part of, Michael Vaughan lashed out at their poor behaviour.

He said the fact a midnight curfew had been imposed showed England had the wrong personnel. He called for the ban to be lifted and urged England to send home the next player who stuffed up.

“If you bring a curfew and release the curfew it is like letting the wolves out, they go nuts, let them be who they want to be, it’s their careers,” Vaughan said.

“Of course they are representing the England team but make it dead simple, if you bring any bad PR for off-field activities you get sent home and you have got to be dead strong with it.”




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