Opinion: Cook's new image feels like a facade

Those who throw their weight about tend to have something to prove. The truly strong don't need to prove anything to anyone, writes Alex Bowden.

Here's a question for you. When is a show of strength not a show of strength? The answer is when it's a conspicuous show of strength. Those who throw their weight about tend to have something to prove. The truly strong don't need to prove anything to anyone.

Without making any definitive judgements either way, this thought came to mind when I learned how Alastair Cook had apparently played a major part in the departure of England's batting coach, Graham Gooch, this week.

For those who don't know, Cook has worked closely with Gooch for over a decade, enough for them to be classed as protege and mentor, in fact. For Cook to coldly discard someone so trusted shows a hitherto unsuspected ruthlessness, no?

Well that depends. Another way of looking at it would be to say that Graham Gooch was a dead duck anyway. A bit of toing and froing and plotting and scheming and the selfless Gooch may have allowed Cook to kick his anatine carcass a few times after the fact so that the captain could make a big show of displaying his strength.

"Look at me giving Goochy the duck a damn good shoeing. No-one is safe!"

Or maybe that's a bit Machiavellian for you. But even if Cook really was behind Gooch's exit, his motivations might be much the same: to find a way of stamping his authority on the England team and show that he isn't to be messed with.

This is all well and good and is possibly exactly what's needed for him to lift the side from their malaise. But it only works if it's genuine. If Gooch was going anyway and Cook is merely exploiting this, it would actually make him look weaker.

In that scenario, his actions are more like a bully's cowardly sidekick shouting one last insult at a victim as they flee.

Like I say, I haven't really made up my mind either way. Has Cook been hamstrung by working within someone else's system up until now, or was that the real Cook with this new one carefully sculpted but fundamentally a facade?

I don't really want to mention Kevin Pietersen here, because that old thing tends to hijack the focus of whatever you're writing. However, it would be remiss of me to not even touch upon it because there are parallels.

The ECB's eagerness to highlight how Cook was in favour of Pietersen's dismissal also had an air of showiness about it. It all boils down to whether this is Cook having a clear sense of what's needed or merely wanting to be seen to have power and influence.

I started with a question, so why not end with one as well. If your chosen leader is lacking in authority, is it possible to help him build it or will such efforts actually undermine him further?

<b>Alex Bowden</b>