Shane Warne believes England need to ditch Alastair Cook as captain in favour of Kevin Pietersen or even Graeme Swann if they are serious about winning the Ashes and becoming world-beaters again. England have already heard plenty of advice from Australia’s record-breaking spinner since their arrival Down Under - where they are hoping to win the urn for a fourth time in succession.
Warne’s suggestions have previously centred on a damning critique of Cook’s “negative” and “boring” tactics. In his Daily Telegraph column yesterday, he revisited that favourite theme - and for good measure, advocated a highly-unlikely late switch away from a leader who has lost just one Test in 16, intially as Andrew Strauss’ deputy and then his successor.
It was during England’s surge to their 3-0 Ashes victory last summer that Warne first had Cook in his sights. In his latest column, he said: “People wanted to know why England were not attacking when they were 2-0 up. “England’s default position is to be defensive, because that is the nature of the captain, Alastair Cook.”
Warne is also at pains to clarify he is merely offering his personal opinion, not that of a partisan employee of England’s Ashes opponents. “For your information, I am not paid by Cricket Australia and have no official role with them,” he wrote. “I honestly believe Cook has to improve tactically if England are to become the No 1 team in the world again, and I do not think too many people would disagree with me.”
Pietersen previously captained England in three Tests, against his native South Africa and India in 2009, before being sacked after a power struggle with coach Peter Moores. He has since interspersed periods of controversy off the pitch with moments of brilliance on it. Warne added, however: “If I had to choose a captain out of the England side it would be Kevin Pietersen or Graeme Swann.
“That may sound like an unbelievable thing to say after all the controversy of last year, but I think KP has the best cricket brain in the team. “Graeme Swann is good too, as we have seen from his Twenty20 captaincy of England. “They are both imaginative, good readers of the game and take the aggressive option first - whereas Cook retreats too quickly.”