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Be a man of steel

Sleepless nights, long distance runs and farming turkeys – it’s England captain Alistair Cook’s guide to leadership…

Think quickly
“As England captain, you get challenged in different ways every single day, and at the beginning of the day you don’t know what that challenge will be, or the decisions you’ll have to make. A lot of the decisions you’re making within two or three seconds, but there are some decisions that you do have to give a little more time to, but still have to give an answer to pretty quickly - and you don’t know what that decision’s going to be when you get out of bed.”

Switch off (or at least try!)
“Switching off during a Test match isn’t that easy. I’m not a great sleeper in a Test match anymore. It used to be easy to sleep but your mind doesn’t switch off and I struggle to sleep when I’ve scored runs. If I’ve scored a hundred I think mentally your brain doesn’t switch off. I can’t find a method of going to sleep. And if I do get to sleep I just wake up and my brain is still ticking over. Actually, when I don’t score any runs I normally sleep better.” 

Alistair Cook ()


Learn on the job
“I pretty much learned the captaincy on the job which is a fairly hard place to be. It’s a really, really demanding and challenging role. There’s no doubt about that. But it’s an incredibly rewarding role when it goes well, and a tough role when it doesn’t quite go so well. But I absolutely love it. You’re not England captain for very long and when you get announced as England captain and you’re walking down the steps, especially at Lord’s, it’s a real honour and you kind of realise the quality of people that have done it in the past - to be following in those footsteps is a huge privilege.”

Go with your gut
“The one thing I have learned is gut instinct. If I think a decision is a close call it’s definitely not going to be overturned as an LBW. If I think it’s definitely out then I’ll have a look at it. Making that call is quite hard when you’ve got a bowler who’s been bowling a five- or six-over spell in the heat and he’s desperate for that wicket and he sees a very different thing.”

Team dynamics
“There is a little bit of change where you take a leadership position in terms of responsibility where you’re making decisions which are affecting their [team-mates] future a bit. Naturally it (the relationship) does evolve a little bit but first and foremost you’re still a player - it’s not like a manager in football. You’re going out there, you’ve still got to pull your weight. “You’re still one of the lads but clearly there is a little bit of stuff where the relationship has changed a bit but I hope it hasn’t changed that much and certainly with my close friends, guys I’ve played a lot of cricket with over a long period of time, I don’t think it’s changed our relationship too much.” 

Alistair Cook ()


Go running… and last the distance
“I like doing quite a lot of long distance running because I think to bat a long period of time, you’re out on your feet a lot. I know it’s against what our sports scientists like because they like explosive, because actually you don’t run long periods, you do lots of sprinting twos and threes. But I think to be able to calmly bat for a long period of time you need quite a lot aerobic fitness. I’ve always done a lot of long distance running, 45 minute runs – it’s not that long distance – and you build into speed when you get here [on tour].”


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