In 2003, Cook captained Bedford School in a match against an Oakham team that contained Stuart Broad. Cook made an unbeaten double hundred, a score almost unheard of in schools cricket. But in reaching that milestone he essentially sacrificed the game, leaving Oakham fewer overs to make the 300 plus runs needed for victory than he and his team had taken in getting them.
In his two years as captain of Bedford, Cook made 2,014 runs in 29 innings. Despite his dominance Bedford drew 16 of their 34 matches under him (they won 13), which suggests he was not a bold captain even then.The sports psychologist Steve Sylvester - and I have linked to this article on his blog because of the limited access to the Telegraph site - suggests that Cook would have gained positive reinforcement from an early age after seeing his effortful and process-driven methods bear fruit ins batting, but may now be struggling to see why it cannot work for his captaincy.
“It is like the salesman who hits his targets and goals for fun and then gets promotion to be a manager,” said Sylvester on Monday. “Suddenly, he has to manage people and get them to reach the same targets, which isn’t as easy especially, as in Cook’s case, if there is this toxic brew of the team losing and his own poor run of form with the bat.”Sylvester goes on to suggest that calls for Cook to show more mental toughness are misplaced:
“Cook needs support and care in developing mental softness, not toughness, if he is going to be a successful leader,” said Sylvester. “Mental toughness, the traditional approach, is limited. Teaching people to be tougher, ie going harder, stronger and faster, is old-fashioned. What we need instead is to teach people to be softer under stress, to become more flexible and easier to shape.”Steve Sylvester. who played a few games for Middlesex and Nottinghamshire himself, is praised by Moeen Ali:
"He helped me embrace what I am all about," Moeen says. "He helped me see the bigger picture and the role of cricket in my life. Cricket, basically, is just a game and, by understanding that I have a greater purpose, I can relax and not worry about what happens on the pitch."Finally, to return to Alastair Cook, talk of his schooldays reminds me that I once posted a video of him as a chorister at St Paul's.