Cook aiming for return to form
6:58am Wednesday 9th July 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Alastair Cook will begin this summer's five-Test series against India under mounting and unforgiving pressure but in hope too that he can rediscover and sustain his lifelong knack of scoring runs.
Precious few will be unaware, when the first Investec Test gets under way at Trent Bridge on Wednesday, that Cook urgently needs some overdue success both personally and for the England collective.
He has not added to his national record 25 Test centuries in any of his last 24 innings and under his captaincy England have lost six of their last seven since last summer's Ashes.
Cook nonetheless sees the unprecedented challenge of five Tests in 42 days not as another examination he could do without just now but an opportunity to return to form and stay there.
"It's a tight schedule and it's going to be very hard, especially for the fast bowlers," he said.
"But as a batter, if you get into some form, to have those days of cricket back to back and start to hit the ball really well it's the best place to be.
"You are constantly batting, and making the most of it."
Cook faces an unenviable task to please everyone both with his captaincy and batsmanship.
Recently, and uncharacteristically, he has done neither.
But he believes it is entirely feasible to separate the two roles effectively.
"I've never had that issue when I've been batting. I've never thought 'I need to do this as a captain'," Cook said.
"I can honestly say that has never crossed my mind, when someone is running in at mid-80s to 90mph, me thinking about what field placings I'm going to set to someone else. That doesn't happen.
"The skill probably is to be able to switch and be mentally fresh to do it because you're always thinking about it.
"When you're in the field as a captain, obviously for those 90 overs your mind works overtime - and then you've got to go and bat.
"That's the skill. But I don't see that as a problem - I never have done."
At the crease it is all too easy to spell out what Cook needs to do as an opening batsman - but it is another matter achieving it.
"I just need to go back to scoring runs," he said.
"It's always an innings away. I think that's one of the beauties of form - which no-one quite understands.
"You go in, and can feel a bit rusty in the first 20 minutes or half-an-hour but then get a little bit of luck and you're back to where you were.
"No-one quite understands why you have all these peaks and troughs in your career. The better players have fewer peaks and troughs and are far more consistent.
"I know I've got to score runs in this series."