Cricket Expert & Columnist
Test recipe for Cook
Nasser Hussain says now is not the time for England to drop struggling opener Alastair Cook.
Last Updated: 28/10/10 11:32am
Alastair Cook is in a bad place as a batsman right now but I'd have no hesitation in picking him for England's final two Tests against Pakistan.
It's clear his technique has gone backwards to where it was before he began working with Graham Gooch in South Africa and Bangladesh over the winter.
A strong technique has never been his strongest asset - that's been his mental strength, his hunger to score runs and his professionalism and dedication.
His alignment looked much better in South Africa where he left the ball well and his stance was more solid but that's not the case at present and it's reflected in the lack of runs he's scored throughout the summer at Test and county level, outside of the one-day games he's played for Essex.
His game is in tatters and it has been further exposed by two pitches, at Trent Bridge and Edgbaston, which have helped the bowlers.
But, as tempted as the selectors may be not to pick him for next week's third Test at the Oval, I think they should stick with him because he has to prove that he is an England player.
I don't see any sense in sending him back to county cricket to get some runs for Essex for the simple reason that they will count for very little in Australia.
Instead, he must play on two good pitches at the Oval and Lord's and prove he can still cut it against a potent Pakistan attack. That way the selectors can make a proper judgement on him.
As things stand there would be a strong argument for promoting Ian Bell up to three if he wasn't injured and asking Jonathan Trott to open up with captain Andrew Strauss.
Trott's attitude impressed me at Edgbaston where he scored a couple of important half-centuries without getting much credit - but I think that suits him.
He strikes me as someone who is happy going along under the radar. In fact Trott's temperament reminds me of that of one of his heroes - Jacques Kallis.
He's very calm, composed and happy to get the job done behind the scenes; I think he's got a very long Test career ahead of him.
The same, very clearly, goes for Kevin Pietersen who I'm sure cannot wait to get back to the Oval - one of his favourite grounds - and end his wait for that 17th Test century.
He's still not in form but I'd back him to get runs at the Oval where there's pace and bounce - conditions that suit his front-foot technique and allow him to go at the ball.
He'll be better for the time he spent in the middle but he's still a long way away from being in tip-top form. He could do with a hit on Twenty20 finals day but I'd understand why Hampshire might be reluctant to give him one.
He's not been there for them much over the last four years due to his international commitments and they've got to Finals Day without him so why should they leave one of the players out who has contributed to their progress?
Pietersen admitted this week that he took his eye off the ball after a fine World Twenty20 campaign and it looks like he has learnt his lesson.
Going forward, I believe he has to be affiliated to a county. I know the modern-day schedule doesn't allow international cricketers much time to play county cricket but the odd game here and there helps to keep things ticking over.
One thing Strauss and Andy Flower must do next summer is get Pietersen signed up with a county that is prepared to give him a game when necessary.
Freelance cricketers such as the Andrew Symonds of this world soon find their form fading away unless they keep their eye in playing some first-class games.
Graeme Swann is now up to third in the world bowling rankings behind Dale Steyn and Mohammad Asif after his career-best six for 65 in the second innings and he deserves his status as the world's best spinner.
He gives the ball a huge rip but also turns the ball at pace on a full length rather than bowling darts. The ball he bowled Imran Farhat is an early contender for ball of the century!
I like his attitude too - he's a cocky street-fighter who likes the big stage which means he won't ever freeze or fear anyone.
Stuart Broad is another exceptional cricketer who just needs to make sure he keeps his aggression in check. He's the type of character I would have wanted in my side - someone who is prepared to fight and take the battle to the opposition.
People like that are going to step over the line occasionally - just as he did when he threw the ball at Zulqarnain Haider on day three. He deserved to be fined for what he did because that type of behaviour isn't on - just as you can't appeal without turning around to the umpire.
He's taken his punishment. Now he's got to move on and prove he has learnt from the episode.
Looking forward, Mohammad Yousuf must play at the Oval next week because Pakistan's batting is as ordinary as it comes.
They must get more runs in the first innings to put England under greater pressure and they've got to catch a million times better.
The first you can sort out reasonably quickly by letting Yousuf loose on a good pitch at the Oval, but the second is going to take decades to sort out and it would be a major surprise if England don't get a few more let-offs in the field in the remainder of the series.