LONDON – Alastair Cook admitted it is fair to question the hunger of his England team after their batting capitulations in the first two Ashes Tests – then revealed that he already had.
“It's a good question,” said the beleaguered captain when asked whether the players who have won three consecutive Ashes series any longer have the will for the fight.
Australia’s 218-run rout of the tourists in Adelaide followed their even more crushing 381-run victory in the first Test in Brisbane.
“Sometimes, when you haven't been playing well, that's one thing you start looking at – whether we do have that [hunger]. I can only say, from speaking to the guys, and watching them, how much this is hurting. Only the guys will know that inside themselves. But I honestly believe we've got that.
"We've been outplayed, and haven't played very well. You can't get away from that. But the only way we can drag it out is by getting that hunger, that desperation back into our game.”
Asked directly about the attitude of Kevin Pietersen, who has been highlighted in the Australian media after contributing significantly to his own downfall in his first three innings of the series, Cook added: "Yes, I think he is. In fact, I know he is – after speaking to him.
“I thought he played very responsibly in that second innings. Again, he's a senior player and he will be first to hold his hands up and say some of his shots – execution and selection – haven’t been good enough. That's pretty much [the same] for the whole of our batting line-up, and that's the kind of honesty we need to go forward.”
England held the latest in a series of lengthy team meetings on this tour in their Adelaide dressing room after Australia had taken less than an hour to polish off the four second-innings wickets that remained at the start of the fifth day.
“We have to be honest with ourselves,” added Cook. “We haven’t played well enough in these two games. It’s hurting us like hell, but we’re the only guys who can change it.
“Self-belief is certainly an issue you need to make sure you look after when you’ve lost heavily in two games. If we don’t believe it, then no one else is going to believe it. That’s the simple deal. We’ve got to look deep into our souls, deep into our hearts, and turn it round. We can’t mope about giving it the ‘poor-mes’. It’s whether we can drag a performance out of ourselves. We’ve got players who have scored a lot of runs, players who have taken a lot of wickets. We need to stand up and do that.”
Cook was happy to take his own share of the responsibility for that after his double failure against Mitchell Johnson.
“You can get good balls sometimes as an opener, and you can play poor shots. In this game I’ve got a good ball and played a poor shot. Simple deal.
“I need to score more runs. We all do. But there are only so many times you can tell the lads to do it, and if you’re not doing it, it makes it harder. I’m there at the top of the order as a batter, and in the last two games I haven’t been scoring enough runs. I need to go and change that.
"There are some very tough moments for the captain, and we're in the middle of it. We're 2-0 down, and I'm responsible as the captain for that – in the sense I'm leading the troops out there.
"Yes, it does hit you hard. It's how you bounce back. Sport shows what character you can be.
"It's certainly not impossible,” he said of England's prospects of coming from 2-0 down to retain the Ashes.
"A lot of people who will be sitting in this room, and outside, will probably give us no chance. But if we don't believe that in our dressing room, if we believe the urn has gone, then it might as well have gone.
"Obviously 2-0 is not a great situation to be in. But if you look at a football game, the next goal can change it very quickly. It's going to take a monumental effort from us to do it.
“Our record at Perth [the venue for the third Test] is of no relevance whatsoever. You can say we haven’t won there for however many years. It’s of total irrelevance to this team. We have to go there as this side in 2013 and deliver something very special – otherwise we’re not going to do what we’ve come to do.” – The Guardian