This has led to accusations of Cook being a weak captain. It is hard, really, to comment either way without playing under him and knowing him personally, but an incident in the second Test, where Panesar and Prior absolutely shut him out of a decision-making conversation, seemed to speak volumes. It must be difficult to be trying to do Andrew Strauss's job, with Andrew Strauss's players and coach. Unless something changes, it seems that Cook will always be the cuckoo in the nest.
There is beginning to be a shift in personnel. Joe Root, Nick Compton, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan have all made their debuts under Cook, while players like Boyd Rankin, Jonny Bairstow, James Taylor and Michael Carberry were never really part of the Strauss regiment. Once players like Stokes and Root make that graduation from merely players to senior players, it should make Cook's job easier, if he's still around.
Alternatively, Matt Prior is the vice-captain, and seems to be the most respected left-tenant at Cook's disposal. It is a shame, then, that Matt Prior's Test career might well be down for the count, because twelve months ago he was the obvious next in line. The only other option in the Test side is Ian Bell, whose leadership credentials are something of an unknown quantity. Where are the guarantees that any of these men are any better tactically than the man they would be replacing?
I'm not saying that Daryl Mitchell, or anyone is the answer to England's prayers. I'm not even saying that Alastair Cook should be replaced; just that there currently doesn't look to be anyone with that inspirational streak a great captain needs.
Of course, you're more likely to find strong individuals if you treat your players as such, and that is something that England haven't been doing. "Team England" was something that was beneficial in moderation, but which has now morphed into something unrecognisable from its intentions. What was originally meant to be a support group for the players has become an authoritarian dictatorship: the players eat what they are told to eat, practice what they are told to practice, and even take most of their leisure time where Team England thinks it will be most enriching.
This set-up is great if you want to produce automatons, but cricket is not a game for automatons. Cricket is a game for players with flair and freedom, for leaders with ideas and courage. The only place ideas seem to be allowed to come from is the over-populated back room, which now holds so many people that it should be re-named the main room.
The best coaches I've ever worked with are the listeners. Chris Park, who played a couple of List A games in the C&G Trophy was one such listener, and despite being a wicket-keeper by trade, he was able to give me insightful and helpful advice about seam bowling simply by listening first. I never got the impression that he was trying to work on players, simply that he wanted to work with them. It may sound like a small matter of semantics, but it makes all the difference in the world.
Team England has to step back from working on the England players, and remember how to work with them. Only then will the captain, be he Alastair Cook or his successor, be able to have a fair crack of the whip.