‘Controversies have taken gloss off retaining Ashes’

“It was a strange day at Old Trafford in the circumstances in which we retained the Ashes. Then over the last couple of days it’s been a bit of a media storm,” said England captain Alastair Cook. By Andy Wilson.

So, Alastair Cook might have thought as he was grilled over a wide range of controversies at the Riverside, from the weaknesses of Hot Spot to Monty Panesar’s lack of self-control outside a Brighton nightclub: this is how it feels to be an Ashes-retaining captain.

The moment of triumph at Old Trafford was hardly what Cook must have dreamed of when he inherited the captaincy from Andrew Strauss at Lord’s last September — an announcement over the public address system that the third Test had been abandoned, washing away Australia’s chances of winning the series.

But the wide range of developments since have stretched credulity — and occasionally Cook’s patience. He reserved his strongest words for the Channel 9 report that implied Kevin Pietersen and a number of other players from both sides had been attempting to cheat the Hot Spot technology, describing it as “a blatant fabrication” in endorsing the England and Wales Cricket Board’s demand for an apology.

England’s captain was also unequivocal in condemning Panesar’s behaviour but he dismissed other issues that have floated around his team recently — snaps of them smoking in Spinningfields during their Mancunian celebrations and Shane Warne’s criticism of them as “smug, arrogant and disrespectful” — as part of a “media storm” that is best ignored.

“It was a strange day at Old Trafford in the circumstances in which we retained the Ashes. Then over the last couple of days it’s been a bit of a media storm,” Cook said. “We knew it would happen at some stage in the Ashes and it’s taken a bit of gloss (off) but that’s out of our control. We’re an experienced bunch, we’ve been through a lot and a lot of players have been through similar circumstances with a bit of controversy in the past. We’ve dealt with it well and I see no reason why we can’t deal with it again.

“As a side, I’ve got no qualms with the way we’ve gone about our business in this series. We try to be as respectful as we can to the opposition. We try to do things in a proper way — clearly we don’t always get it right but I think Andy Flower has been very strong on that in his coaching circle.”

That is why Cook was so disappointed by the reports of Panesar’s indiscretion, (Panesar had been partying at the Shooshh club on Brighton’s beachfront, which was hosting a Gay Pride event. However, when a group of women complained he was hassling them, Panesar was asked to leave. Panesar proceeded to the promenade above the club and relieved himself on the bouncers standing below. The bouncers then chased Panesar until he was cornered in a nearby pizza parlour) which came days after the spinner had been released from the England squad in Manchester. “Clearly we try and we know the responsibilities we have as cricketers,” said the captain. “Any behaviour like that is unacceptable.” Perhaps the only consolation for Cook from the profusion of peripheral issues is that it has reduced his unusually thin series with the bat to an afterthought in the media — although obviously not to him. “I’m desperate for a score without a doubt,” said the 28-year-old, who has managed only 145 runs from six innings, with two half centuries.

“I’ve got starts and when you convert starts into bigger runs it changes — but that hasn’t happened. I work hard at my game (he had already been doing so on the Riverside square with Graham Gooch, then in the nets facing Graeme Swann). Hopefully it’s just a matter of time.”

Cook has also run into problems with the decision review system that England were thought to have mastered, certainly in comparison with Australia’s floundering early in the series. He squandered one himself in an unsuccessful attempt to have his own lbw decision overturned in the second innings at Old Trafford but he confirmed England will be sticking with the system they have developed — a three-way consultation between Cook, Matt Prior and the bowler, or between batsman and non-striker — despite suspicions over Hot Spot’s reliability.

“I don’t think we can think like that — ‘he’s nicked it but it might not show up on Hot Spot, so we won't refer it’,” Cook said.

“That’s a very dangerous way to look at it. We’ll be doing it exactly the same way. If we think he’s nicked it and he’s been given not out, we’ll be referring it, even if it doesn’t show up on Hot Spot. We can only back our instincts as we’ve been doing so far in this series. You can’t try to second-guess technology.”

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2013