Cook eager to connect with fans

Congleton Guardian: Alastair Cook is keen to stay away from social media Alastair Cook is keen to stay away from social media

Alastair Cook is the leading man in England's new era of 'connection' with their public - yet he remains consciously disengaged by the world of social media.

Twitter and Facebook may be part of England's collective charm offensive, as they try to put their winter of Ashes discontent behind them.

But they remain a personal choice too, and Cook is tempted by neither.

The England captain emphasised once again, on the eve of the five-match Royal London one-day international series against Sri Lanka, that he is determined to remain his own man and lead the national team his way.

His preference for face-to-face interaction means he is spared the often anonymous excesses of those who habitually criticise via keyboard or keypad.

Cook has been animalised from afar - one high-profile Twitter critic referred to him as a "weasel", after Kevin Pietersen's post-Ashes axing by the England and Wales Cricket Board - and such is the lot of any public figure, much worse has almost certainly been written elsewhere.

But as he returns to the starting point of his captaincy tenure - a first series in charge brought a hard-fought 3-2 home win over Sri Lanka three years ago - it is another four-legged depiction which has stuck in his mind.

Former England captain Michael Atherton, turned pundit, appeared less than convinced back in 2011 of the new man's suitability to the job in 50-over cricket.

"I was called a donkey, wasn't it?" Cook asked.

"Yes, I do remember that."

That metaphor was aired on television, a more traditional medium - and one Cook is tuned into.

His disinterest in social media is instinctive and tactical.

"It think it's a bit of both," he said.

"I do deliberately ignore it - because I'm not on Twitter or Facebook.

"I try to speak to people ... rather than pushing keys on a keypad."

Cook is encouraged, via the conventional communication of speaking to people, that support for his England team remains strong - despite their embarrassingly unsuccessful winter in Australia.

"I'm sure on social media - if you live your life on social media - it would be slightly different," he said.

"But with the people I've bumped into in the street or the pub, the goodwill is still there to English cricket.

"People were obviously disappointed with the winter, as any cricket fan would be - and the players were disappointed as well, that's a given."

He acknowledges much urgent, and lasting, remedial work will be needed to help turn an ODI team beaten 4-1 in Australia four months ago into a winning squad at next year's World Cup down under.

"I remember in 2011 sitting down, when I first started as England captain, saying 'I want this four years to build up - and come the World Cup, we'll have a settled side leading into it'," he said.

"I'd hoped to have eight or nine months where it would be settled.

"That was the theory. But I probably wasn't living in the world of reality if ... because a lot can happen in four years, as we've seen.

"Of course, it would be ideal if everything was settled and everyone knew their role.

"They'll be the decisions we start making now because of what happened over the last three or four months.

"We build towards the World Cup from now."

Rediscovery of the winning habit against Sri Lanka would be a handy start.

That will have to be hard-earned, though, against formidable opponents bolstered by the return - after a nine-run Twenty20 win for the sprint-format world champions - of veteran all-time great batsmen Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

Cook was an interested spectator only on Tuesday, having last played Twenty20 for England almost five years ago.

"For 85, probably 90 per cent of that game, we played really well," he said.

"Maybe (it's) the habit of not winning many games of cricket recently.

"These are games which - when you're flying, as Sri Lanka are as world champions - you find a way of winning."

Cook's England began the season by avoiding any embarrassment with victory in what he described as a "banana-skin" fixture against Scotland in rainy Aberdeen.

But he knows they will be judged seriously, and doubtless harshly by some, on what happens next.

"No-one's got a divine right to win a game of cricket," he added.

"Sri Lanka are an incredibly dangerous side, so we've got to play some good aggressive cricket and - when it comes to the crunch - nail our skills.

"We are going to leave it all out there and we are desperate for a good performance.

"But that doesn't guarantee anything. The fresh start and stuff is brilliant - but it's all now down to playing some good cricket."

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