Alastair Cook will not be sacked as captain this summer even if England lose their Test series with India, says Bob Willis.
Cook, 29, says he has no intention of standing down despite this winter’s 5-0 Ashes mauling and Tuesday’s second Test defeat, which gave Sri Lanka their first series win in England.
That result means that coach Peter Moores, restored to the role in April, has now lost five and won only three of his series in charge, but Willis says it is too early for leadership changes.
“I think the watershed for England captain and manager is after the World Cup campaign in Australia and New Zealand,” said the former England fast bowler. “Nobody is going to sack Cook, even if he has a lean time against India.
“I don’t think expectations will be that high for the World Cup but the way England conduct themselves in that competition will be telling tale for both Cook and Moores.”
He added: “I think we’ve got to give Moores a little bit of a honeymoon period – he’s picked up a side shattered by the Ashes debacle.
“There have been some positives but the backbone of the side – the five senior players – haven’t really been at their best in this series. The six new guys have all performed at times but there are still question marks about their techniques.”
Moores was in charge when England lost 1-0 in India in December 2008 under Kevin Pietersen’s captaincy and, like the skipper, was relieved of his responsibilities the following month.
However, Willis is optimistic about England’s chances in this summer’s five-Test series between the sides because he feels India’s inexperienced seam attack – bereft of the injured Zaheer Khan – remains their weaker suit even allowing for the retirements of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.
“India have got tremendous batting quality – the way that they’ve replaced those legends of the game in the batting department is incredible – but I’m not sure that their bowlers are as good as Sri Lanka’s bowlers," reflected Willis.
“Ravichandran Ashwin gets into the top 10 bowlers in the world but apart from that I don’t think they’ve got any world-beaters and historically they do not travel well.”
England slipped to fifth place in the ICC Test rankings – one place below India – after Moeen Ali’s valiant maiden hundred narrowly failed to thwart Sri Lanka’s victory bid at Headingley.
The Worcestershire batsman, who made his Test debut in the first Test at Lord’s, is Cook’s first-choice spin option following Graeme Swann’s retirement this winter.
But Willis says his batting performance at Leeds could delay the return of all-rounder Ben Stokes, who was left out of the first squad of the summer due to injury but took career-best match figures of 10 for 121 for Durham against Sussex.
“Stokes did that well in Australia that he deserves an early opportunity to come back; Chris Jordan might have to be the one to give way although I thought Jordan had a very good Test match at Lord’s," added Willis.
“So these are difficult decisions for the selectors, who will remember centuries – and Stokes scored a brilliant century at Perth.
“But what’s his bowling like? Is he seriously a third seamer for England? I’m sure that England would like him back in their ranks.
“But where is the spin bowler going to come from? There simply isn’t one and that is a serious problem for England going forward.”
Watch England take on India in the first of five Tests live on Sky Sports, starting on Wednesday July 9.